Give Human Resources a Break!

I would love to hear from any HR Specialist who hasn’t been pressured by someone “higher up” to qualify the applicant they want to fill a vacancy (either internally or externally) and to put that person within reach on a selection certificate, no matter what. But it’s that “no matter what” part that pits ethics and the HR Specialist’s moral compass against self-preservation.

Yesterday’s edition of FedSmith printed an article about this very situation where the Office of Special Counsel successfully prosecuted two HR Specialists who thought innocently, that they were doing the right thing for their customer, a U.S. Coast Guard Commander (Special Counsel, v. Richard F. Lee and Diane L. Beatrez, May 14, 2010, MSPB Doc Nos CB-1215-08-0014-T-1 and CB-1215-08-0015-T-1).

As the FedSmith article points out, HR Specialists working for the Federal government walk a fine line between successfully serving higher-graded and more powerful customers and committing ethics violations that are spelled out by those Protected Personnel Actions we all know so well.

What makes this situation worse is that sometimes high-level officials don’t seem to respect nor care about this delicate position that HR Specialists face on a daily basis. Selecting officials and others in just about every organization on the planet don’t care for the “warden” approach but good HR Specialists can’t be “wimps” either.

HR Specialists have to be able to stand firm, keep their integrity in tact, AND find a way to address their customers’ needs; these people meet the “gold standard” for every organization! How do they get there? Balancing Customer Svc with PPP.pdf

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Ed Powell

Special Counsel, v. Richard F. Lee and Diane L. Beatrez, May 14, 2010)

Interesting case. In my 30 years in government HR, I witnessed circumstances like this far less than a thousand times. It certainly didn’t happen daily. Weekly, possibly. Monthly, of course! I love the SC’s reference to the “Merit System” as if there are no exceptions to merit. How can you have CTAP, ICTAP, Remployment Priority Lists, Stopper Lists, Veterans Preference, Spouse Preference, Federal Career Intern Program, and 1/3 of the Executive Branch now in the Excepted Service and still talk about “Merit?” The Merit System was built on a thousand laws, Executive Orders, etc. over more that 60+ years that were often in direct conflict with each other. Does anyone remember that the “Rule of Three” started in the Grant administation? (We have built the proverbial camel that we still describe as a horse!) The FPM (before it was cast out) used to help us through the maze but now we can do the “interpreting” by ourselves. Is it a shock to anybody that oftentimes the system gets flexed beyond reason?