Doris Tirone

Building morale requires trust between the players so, trust-building is really what needs to happen. For years, Federal employees have been down-sized, RIF’d, BRAC’d, and sold a case of snake oil; so, with an aging workforce still in place to effect morale, their points of view constantly bombard the “newbee Govies” who, in turn, catch the morale-infected virus as well.

HR Expect David Bowman described 5 Ways to Build and 5 Ways to Lose Trust in the Workplace. Focusing on the “build” mode, trust only grows where integrity is resident; and this MUST start at the top before it can move down and become part of the organizational culture. Unfortunately, Govies are bombarded daily by political rhetoric so, what’s really happening is that we are constantly learning about the half truths and unlikely chance that promises will be kept by the Administration and our legislators. Even if we focus more locally (i.e., internal to each of our Agencies), we always know that farther up the chain of authority, there are decision makers who have little concern over how their decisions will impact Federal employee morale.

That having been said, Cabinet/Agency-level Directors can still do better at communicating their organizational visions and values. And by “communication”, I also include the “do as I say AND as I do” communications that often speak louder than words!

Since trust is developed by INclusion rather than by operating in a vacuum, it’s important that organizational executives and seasoned Govies take EVERYONE into account on matters that impact the organization; if everyone’s voices is heard and TRULY considered (and that spans the range of employees from SES through WG, union and non-union, full-time and part-time, whether on permanent, term or temporary assignments) trust will grow. As Bowman suggests, management should not be aloof; leaders should seek and give credit to the opinions and ideas they receive from anyone on their staff, just knowing employee names and treating them with genuine respect (see: The Golden Rule) goes a long way, when it’s sincere.

Pulling together to work on shared goals, rather than having employees entertain the ever-so-present personal agendas, goes a long way toward building trust as well. As the author points out, “This is the essence of teamwork. When a team really works, the players trust one another”.

And last, but certainly the foremost action needed right now is that Appointees, Senior Executives, Managers, Supervisors, AND worker-bees must ALL do what’s right, regardless of the risk to one’s self. Hopefully, we learned “right” from “wrong” in our formative years so one need only call on that instinct to figure out the right path, even if it’s the one that presents the most resistence. Doing what’s easy isn’t always the best choice but doing the “right” thing for one’s employees will nearly always earn the respect of those around us.