What actions by your agency could help offset the pay freeze for you?

Home Forums Leadership and Management What actions by your agency could help offset the pay freeze for you?

This topic contains 25 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Denise Petet 10 years ago.

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  • #117021

    Cheryl Ward

    At my agency senior leadership groups are already talking among themselves about how they can compensate employees in other ways since the pay freeze is probably inevitable. They are concerned about attracting new recruits, improving employee retention, building and sustaining morale…. in a nutshell, agencies don’t want to sacrifice workforce excellence while the federal workers sacrifice pay to help reduce the deficit and support economic improvement.

    What would you like to see done at your agency? More training? Time off awards? More face time to talk about the mission with senior leadership? Any ideas?

  • #117071

    Denise Petet

    I look at this from the perspective of a person that’s had the wage freeze at the state level, and also in the private sector. Nothing cheesed me off more than, in the private sector job, to have the CEO freeze everyone’s salary because he overextended himself buying up property/acquisitions…he froze my salary at 9 dollars an hour but he was going home each night to his 9 million dollar mansion.

    A lot of us lost respect for that CEO, who froze the salaries of employees living just on the edge of qualifying for public assistance, because he made poor decisions. He made poor decisions, we paid for them, literally.

    And he never said ‘I’m sorry, it was my mistake’, instead we got the ‘you’re dang lucky you’re still working’ attitude.

    On the state level, it’s kinda hard to swallow the salary freeze and being made to feel like you’re greedy to want a COLA raise, when the legislators had an automatic 4% raise every year, unless of course they chose to vote it down.

    So, from the top down, have some empathy. this may not be the time to get on someone for being 15 minutes late a couple of times and make them make up the time. Or little things like relaxing some dress codes, or having monthly ‘let’s all order in lunch’ (dutch treat of course, or potluck) as a way to build some camraderie. And it shouldn’t just be the managers doing it for themselves, or doing it for the employees and then going off on their own.

    Do a little team building and acknowledge the hard work of the people around you. Say thank you. Don’t be draconian about the lunch that ran a bit over (yeah, I know there’s a fine line between allowing some leeway and being taken advantage of, but that’ll have to be dealt with on a case by case basis)

    Do something to help people feel better and encourage a ‘we’re all in this together’ atmosphere. Just have some empathy and respect when you do it.

  • #117069

    William Wylie

    The reality is that another day off, or more face time with the boss, is not going to put a gallon of gas in my car. It’s not going to pay the increased costs in my health insurance, state and local taxes, public transit costs, or the increased costs of groceries. I don’t need mandatory “fun” or any other nonsensical idea as a sop to the problems this pay freeze is going to cause for me financially.

    If OPM is serious about having this discussion (and I doubt that they are), then let’s talk pragmatic solutions. Let’s talk about lifting the onerous restrictions on outside employment that burden federal employees, and which do NOT have any equivalency in the private sector. Let’s talk about giving federal employees back their rights to freedom of association and to petition for redress on matters that affect them financially. Let’s talk about allowing feds the ability to seek a means of financially offsetting the harms that these freezes, future pay and benefit cuts, and future furloughs will have on them economically by allowing them to seek outside employment (second jobs) in their chosen career fields. If there are conflicts of interest inherent in this issue, then deal with them as they occur at work and on a case-by-case basis rather than issuing blanket proscriptions. Unless OPM is willing to have THESE discussions, and I (once again) believe that they are NOT willing to do so, then all you are asking federal employees is whether a lollipop will fix a broken arm. The answer to that question is “no.”

  • #117067

    Candace Riddle

    Want a young perspective? How about tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment (works great for recruitment), teleworking (saves on commute costs and daycare), flexible work schedules (Gen X’ers and Y’s love this), affordable medical benefits (thats a whole other discussion), some way to help young workers who are strapped for cash to start saving something (anything) for retirement.

  • #117065

    Cheryl Ward

    Thanks for weighing in William — I can appreciate your perspective, and for many, attempts to offset the effects of the freeze may seem like ‘fluff stuff’.

    Let me make sure I have not misled you — I have no clue what OPM is doing along these lines — I know that conversations about this are going on at GSA where I work, and I am fairly certain that the leadership in other agencies is grappling with the issue too. Hearing what the affected employees in the federal workforce think could help to inform those discussions.

    I think your idea of putting outside employment back on the table is an interesting idea… certainly it is outside speaking engagements and appearances that helps provide additional compensation to political leaders…. and, if things get bad enough to bring on furloughs, then outside employment could really become important.

    Thanks again for weighin in.

  • #117063

    Cheryl Ward

    Yes! I love a young perspective and try to have one myself, despite my years…. 😉
    Many of these programs you mention are programs that are available to management right now — where I work at GSA these are pretty prevalent… tuition, loan repayment, teleworking (I work from home 2 days a week), and GSA has a childcare center at the downtown central office. Alternate Work Schedule is the mode o day around here, too.

    And if you have not used PlanSmartChoice to assess medical benefits yet – you really should. There are more than 20 plans available to feds in the DC metro area, and the consumer driven/high deductible plans are excellent buys for young healthy feds.

    In fact every fed who wants to take action to offset the effects of the freeze should look at Mike Causey’s Fed News Radio for the help available from their Open Season articles and radio shows. Reduce tax effects with FSAFEDs and evaluate options for health plans!

    TSP with its matching is a fabulous retirement savings benefit — as young FERS participants, even a small payroll deduction for TSP will be savings that grows. Give up a few Starbucks and put that money in your TSP account.

    Now you have me thinking about more stuff, Candace…. I wonder what tools are out there to help a person reduce their phone bill (cell, internet, etc.)? Maybe we could generate links to more of those kinds of tools… Dr GovLoop/Steve?

  • #117061

    William Wylie


    I appreciate what you are saying, but I suspect it will take more than a couple of lunches and an occasional pat on the back to give many of us a feeling “we’re all in this together”, because we’re not.

    The reality is that the government is wildly dysfunctional when it comes to building esprit-de-corps because we have leadership that treats us like the enemy and abuses us for political advantage. I am, of course, speaking of Congress and the President. As a Marine veteran I can tell you that you don’t build unit cohesion by declaring (to all and sundry, at every opportunity) that your troops are lazy, incompetent, and grossly overpaid. As someone who has worked, and lead people, in the private sector I can tell you that you don’t build a sense of a need for “shared sacrifice” if you trash your employees while ignoring the fact that it was YOUR bad decisions that created the mess in the first place. You don’t build employee trust in your judgment on the need for sacrifice, and how best to achieve it, if your actions (as the leaders of your organization) appear to be arbitrary, capricious, and self-serving. You don’t build employee trust if employees KNOW you don’t have their back.

    Congress (and the President) have broken the cardinal rule of management…praise in public, criticize in private. Nothing is more destructive of morale than a perception that your leadership will throw you overboard (to the sharks) at the first convenient opportunity. They have broken the first rule of leadership, which is to lead by example. They refuse to tackle the true drivers of the national financial woes while attacking our pay and benefits. They have broken the first rule of team building, which is that everyone on the team must work towards the common goal and sacrifice something as required. The President and the Congress ask that we forego a raise, and that’s fair enough. They refuse, however, to forego a continuation of a tax break for those making over $250,000 per year. Why my angst over this issue? Because strangely enough, when you factor in outside income, this group INCLUDES many members of Congress AND the President. Where, then, is THEIR sacrifice?

  • #117059

    Denise Petet

    I know it ain’t easy, trust me, I’ve been there. I’m low person on the totem pole in a state agency. The biggest issue we have all the way around is massive amounts of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

    It was easy for mr CEO to freeze our wages when he wasn’t looking at 300 dollars a month to live on once the bills were paid (meaning, gas, groceries, toiletries, etc).

    I don’t have much respect for the ‘let’s lay off 4 people making 30K a year instead of the one making 200K’ philosophy. But that’s how many companies – and some governments – work.

    Ways around it can be tuition reimbursement. Or the telework. Think of how much money some people can save not paying for daycare or commuting even a couple of days a week. Get away from the old ‘must be behind your desk for 40 hours a week or you’re not working’ philosophy. Focus less on the one size fits all judements of performance and more on the goal and if it’s done or not.

    If the ‘bosses’ are expecting the employees to continually do more with less, well they’re gonna need to start to be more flexible with their employees. Holding people to stringent, often old fashioned, standards just creates an oppressive work place.

    And, maybe, you know, it’s time for those at the upper end to move on, creating room for new people to move up…sure, the salary for the position is still frozen, but get a better paying position and it’s like getting a raise.

  • #117057

    Cheryl Ward

    I certainly appreciate your perspective — and thank you for your service as a Marine.

    Our government is a big bureaucracy Congress in particular annoys me because these days they so seldom agree to actions that would actually enable government to work better. Since 2000 especially I have felt that the overall intent that their actions have demonstrated has been the intent to prove that government does not work… a far cry from the years of the NPR whose goal was “A government that works better and costs less”…. fortunately, Congress is the leadership of the legislative branch and we work in the executive branch. The President and the Cabinet members are our leadership, and I was glad to see John Berry of OPM voice his outrage over the negative commentary about federal employees that’s been popping up a lot over the past couple of months.
    And… I still hold out hope for no tax cuts for the over $250K bunch… even Warren Buffet (sp?), Ted Turner and Bill Gates were on TV this week stating that want to give up the tax cuts…

  • #117055

    Cheryl Ward

    I have been hearing about State governments and wondering how long before things begin to improve there. Hopefully you can hang in long enough to see the return of better times. Thanks for sharing.

  • #117053

    Peter Sperry

    1. Listen before responding. Resist the natural impulse to “control the message” and instead take the time to understand employees real concerns before jumping in with hastily crafted responses that may or may not be appropriate.

    2. Process paperwork quickly. Making employees wait for bonuses, awards, step increases, and particularly career ladder grade promotions only adds insult to injury.

    3. Encourage career progression. Use performance reviews and plans as tools to identify the knowledge, skills and abilities each employee needs to acquire to qualify for promotion to the next grade.

    4. Expand training opportunities. Employees who have topped out in dead end career ladders may welcome training that will allow them to laterally move to another career with better opportunities.

    5. Avoid one size fits all approaches. The GS-12 step 10 with no further career ladder promotion potential is in a very different situation from the GS-9 step 2 in a 9/10/11 career ladder.

    6. Focus on positive people as well as positive solutions. Some employees simply respond negatively no matter what. Ignore them and work with those who want to do more than complain. It might even be helpful to suggest that some of those who consistently maintain they could earn a great deal more in the private sector make the effort to do so.

    7. Do not ignore the SL’s and SES’ers. Their higher incomes do not necessarily shield them from all of the economic strain and few of them planned to spend the last years of their careers overseeing the decline of organizations they spent a lifetime building.

    8. Focus on results. Dire warnings of furloughs, layoffs and program terminations may be a bit overblown but employees generally know when their organization is spinning its wheels without providing any real value to the taxpayer. Employees are also (finally!) beginning to recognize that Congress will not continue to fund ineffective agencies indefinitely. The best job security is the ability to produce goods and services citizens and their elected officials are willing to pay for. And job security really does help ease the pain of pay freezes.

  • #117051

    Cheryl Ward

    Very thoughtful response, Peter — thanks for posting here. I will pass along to leadership in my agency and hope others who read this discussion will do the same.

  • #117049

    Michele Costanza

    For mission critical and high demand positions offer student loan deferment. Each year reduce the balance of the loan by 15%, 20%, etc.

  • #117047

    AJ Malik
  • #117045

    Cheryl Ward

    Excellent article, AJ – some things are tough for federal agencies – can’t use govt funds to pay for some of the cool stuff, but we could do a lot of these things — I especially like the walking staff meetings… Our holiday in-office celebration will include baby pix this year… it is easy to get so focused on deadlines that ‘a little fun’ falls off the plate, and so does the potential productivity boost.
    Thanks for sharing this link!

  • #117043


    Implement Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). The benefit of flexibility would be more valuable than money, and research shows as I understand it (and recently quoted on GovLoop) that ROWE can add up to two additional days of productivity per week.

    A ‘win-win-win’ for government, and employees, and tax payers.

  • #117041


    I would shift the emphasis to patenting and licensing the best of the innovative contributions of gov’t employees.

    We have several policies at NASA that reward the innovators monitarily but for whatever reason, these compensations are rarely used. Seems like this approach would solve several problems simultaneously by rewarding those who are most deserving rather than just those who are highest on the food chain for whatever reason.

    Here are the policies for your reference




  • #117039

    Rob Rapanut

    I think federal agencies should consider bonus or salary differential incentives for CONUS duties. The DoD or Department of State use the model to offset employee requirements to serve in hardship posts or combat zones; these incentives work well to motivate and increase morale of employees to serve overseas. However, the main drawback may be that this increases agency expenses beyond what a COLA pay freeze will amount to in the next couple of years.

  • #117037

    Cheryl Ward

    Megan you raise some interesting points — suggestion programs used to be much more visible in government but I have heard nothing about them for years. With today’s social media and interative collaboration tools, it seems like a whole new generation of ways to recognize innovation and cost-saving ideas ought to be rising to the surface… the Administration is encouraging agencies to use contests. Thanks for raising these ideas – hopefully your posting will generate more investigation into these possibilties.

  • #117035

    Patrick J. Slattery

    Don’t forget about improving the quality of work life. Lower wages means that some peers will leave for better opportunities, that can mean more work for those who remain. Look at ways to improve the quality of that work by eliminating (rethinking) or automating (rethinking) repetitive tasks. Job satisfaction is more than cash remuneration and the quality of work is a considerable component.

    Thanks for the opportunity to have a dialog on this.

  • #117033

    Sterling Whitehead

    This is among the most original, unique and interesting ideas I’ve ever seen. Kudos.

  • #117031

    Sterling Whitehead

    Most of this discussion has focused on monetary compensation, but non-monetary is another effective way.

    Employee recognition and praise in press releases, social media updates, internal newsletters, and meetings are effective methods of reward. Even better, they don’t exactly kill your budget.

    There are times we just want to know we’re appreciated, but it’s tough to remember.

  • #117029

    William Wylie

    Non-monetary compensation only works in an environment where the employees feel that they are making enough to meet their needs. The problem with the 2011 pay freeze is that many employees feel that they aren’t making enough to meet their needs, and that the freeze was a self-serving, arbitrary, and capricious act of political theater. Couple this pay freeze with the vitriolic attacks against the federal service, by many members of Congress, and you can see the true scope of the problem.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think that the two most important words a boss can say are “thank you.” That being said, however, IMHO there is a real risk that the “thanks” will be viewed as a cynical and hollow gesture if it’s coupled with a loss in total real compensation. Under these conditions non-monetary compensation only makes matters worse.

  • #117027

    Sterling Whitehead

    Interesting point William. I’m not familiar with research, stats or surveys on non-monetary compeensation only working when people feel they’re making enough. Can you provide a link or two so I can read up?

  • #117025

    William Wylie

    I’ll see what I can find for you beyond Maslow’s heirarchy and Herzberg’s Hygiene Factors.
    I would submit to you, in the interim, that tangible compensation (salary and monetary equivalent benefits like: retirement, sick leave, annual leave, health insurance and life insurance) should be aggregated into the “money” arena when discussing this issue. These are items with a quantifiable financial impact upon an employee . These items also depend upon recurring capital outlays by the employer. So, when we are talking about “making enough” we’re actually talking about total compensation (salary and money equivalent benefits).

  • #117023

    Cheryl Ward

    This discussion has been very interesting and has raised some ideas that should be useful to agency leaders as we navigate through the next couple of years. I am closing this discussion for now — and sharing the link with GSA senior leaders. I recommend that others share it with their chief personnel or human resource officer if you feel it appropriate.


    This was the first time I have launched a discussion on GovLoop — it has been an excellent experience – Thanks to everyone for your attention and your participation!

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