Federal Managers Pass Off Bad Workers with Great Evals
Many federal managers give highly inflated evaluations to bad employees in hopes they will get promoted to another assignment, a practice dubbed “Export Packing,” reports Government Executive magazine’s William Rudman.
Hiring a federal employee might seem like a sure bet with the recommendation of a former boss. But think again. A common complaint among federal managers is that they were duped by fellow bosses who said an employee was a competent and terrific person when in truth the supervisor was trying to get rid of a performance or behavior problem. Needless to say, managers are more likely to say they’re on the receiving end of the ancient art of “packing for exportation” than to confess to foisting bad apples on others with bogus evaluations. How does one guard against export packing and what, if any, are the legal implications?
Many managers are afraid of being sued by current or former employees, but this fear is ill-founded. The Supreme Court ruled in 1983 in Bush v. Lucas that federal employees cannot sue federal managers for anything arising from a personnel action or the employer-employee relationship. If trouble does arise, then it most likely would come from the other side. Agencies that tolerate the export packing of violent employees, sexual harassers or those whose negligence has endangered lives risk, at the minimum, excoriation by the press and Congress.
All managers can do is question the candidate closely, try to find supervisors and co-workers willing to speak candidly, and look for the warning signs: short tenure, willingness to accept a seemingly lesser position, a history of hopping from agency to agency, and failure to list current or former supervisors and colleagues as references.
Following these steps, managers can reduce — but, unfortunately, not eliminate — the chances of being scammed by an exporter.
Integrity on the part of tenured public employees in supervisory positions, alas, is too much to hope for.