I like bold leaders, and you don’t get much bolder than Elon Musk. Not long after his takeover of Twitter, he shocked mainstream media by axing half the workforce and daring to tell those leftovers to expect to work hard and in-person.
Who does this guy think he is, some sort of successful businessman?
Anyway, here we are; Twitter is still operating, and depending on who you believe is working better than ever.
It would appear that, at least with Twitter, less really is more; fewer deadweight employees equals more efficiencies and innovation. What if we apply this same concept to other areas, like the federal government?
If you’ve ever worked in the federal government or with federal employees, you know it is damn near impossible to fire a federal employee. During the 20 years I spent in the military, I had the pleasure of working with some really outstanding civilian federal employees and probably an equal amount of terrible civilian federal employees.
In my younger years, I wondered how these people had managed to stay in their high-paying jobs, doing little if anything at all and, in many instances, posing a substantial obstacle to actual efficiency or progress in the workplace.
Then, as I grew in the ranks and became a senior leader, I quickly became aware of how these individuals can remain and why a federal job is such a coveted role.
Firing an underperforming and just plain terrible federal employee is arduous, with strict timelines and paperwork guidelines, numerous required meetings, and often involving union deliberations.
The process can take months, if not years, to accomplish, which is disheartening to any manager and impossible to navigate if you are a military Commander with a two-year countdown for your stay in Command.
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But it’s not just the impossible firing system that has the federal government bloated and inefficient; we also have Congress to thank for our beastly federal employment situation.
Every year I was in the military, Congress always approved new programs in the NDAA. With those new programs came new positions and the requirement to fill those positions with new hires as quickly as possible.
Adding these new programs and positions helps pad the political portfolios of Congressmen who get to tout the creation of the said programs and federal “jobs.”
Congress coming up with new positions and programs trickles down throughout the agencies, creating a plague of fragmented authority, duplication of labor, and overlapping responsibility.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are excellent examples of this interlocking web of redundancy.
The FDA is responsible for inspecting shelled eggs, while the USDA is responsible for examining liquid, frozen, and dehydrated eggs. Why is this responsibility split?
For absolutely no reason. Eggs are eggs. I’m not an egg expert, but I’m also not an idiot; there is no reason for this to be split between two agencies.
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This inefficiency was highlighted in a 2017 Government Accountability Office report that found 395 examples in the federal government similar to the one mentioned above. The GAO estimated that if the federal government cut such redundancies, it would save tens of billions of dollars.
I remember when former President Donald Trump announced his executive orders to make it easier to hold federal employees accountable. I remember it because I clapped when I heard about it in my living room.
A month into his presidency, Trump told Fox News:
“You know we have so many people in government, even me, I look at some of the jobs and it’s people over people over people.”
He went on to say one of his least controversial statements:
“There are hundreds and hundreds of jobs that are totally unnecessary jobs.”
He wasn’t and still isn’t wrong. Everyone has a Chief of Staff, a deputy Chief of Staff, an Executive Assistant, and a Secretary.
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And don’t even get me started on all the Chiefs of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion running around. But, unfortunately, President Trump could not do much to change the system.
One of the first things President Joe Biden did was rescind most of what President Trump had in place, including the executive orders to transition many government jobs to “Schedule F” employment. Almost all federal jobs enjoy layers and layers of protection against removal.
President Trump tried to transition many of these jobs to ‘at will’ employment, making it substantially easier to fire poor-performing employees. Overall it was estimated that 50,000 out of the over two million federal employees would’ve transitioned to at-will employment status.
Being an at-will employee means you can be fired without much need for the manager to go through hoops. If you knew your manager could fire you for not meeting standards without having to explain themselves in detail and provide oodles of paperwork, many employees would be motivated to work harder.
While Democrats and unions weren’t fans of Trump’s executive orders, 51% of federal workers did approve. When you think about it, that makes sense; most workers in any industry are hard workers.
But, unfortunately, those hard workers often are made to pick up the slack of the loafs. Then they are stuck in the same roles, unable to promote because those same loafs are rooted deep in their positions with no signs of moving up or out.
Rumor has it that if Donald Trump gets re-elected, he intends to reinstate his plans for the federal workforce. Welcome news for those of us not excited about 87,000 new IRS hires and Chiefs of Diversity making bank telling children they are racists.
I don’t think the loafs in Congress on either side of the aisle will make it easy for him, though. After all, they have their own job security to worry about.
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The general population has been crying for a reduction in the federal government for decades. So much money is being wasted needlessly with overlapping programs and depts. Start with eliminating the Dept of Education. Federal govt involved to areas that they need not be....case closed