Navigating the Transition as a Career Govie

As the new Administration continues to transition into power, there are still a lot of unanswered questions for career employees. With new leadership assuming their positions, many career feds are left wondering what their future at their agency looks like. They also need to know the best ways to work with newcomers.

Fortunately, Tom Fox, the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service has some answers. He sat down with Chris Dorobek on this week’s DorobekINSIDER to give some tips on how to really get things done in the first months of the new administration.

Fox started the conversation by explaining that this transition has been a little different than previous ones. Based on what he has heard from other career folks and executive leaders who have been through other transitions, he advised a wait and see approach. “It can be easy to jump to a set of conclusions based on headlines that you see or rumors that you hear on the news. But you are better off taking it day by day, keeping an open mind and coming to your own conclusions based on your interactions with folks,” he explained.

In order to asses your situation effectively, Fox gave three tips:

  1. Know how your agency is doing. Incoming secretaries and senior leadership are going to inherit a wide variety of performance levels at agencies. Some will be efficiently driving their mission, while others are struggling. To understand where your agency stands, Fox recommended taking a look at rankings like the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government to see if the workforce around you is highly engaged or not. “As a starting point, don’t jump to a set of conclusions. Meet with your people, look at the evidence you have and then make some assessments about your agency and what you’ll need moving forward,” Fox said.
  1. Find opportunities to bring about change. The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government and OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey are critical for this tip, too. Fox explained that in order to hit the ground running, new leaders and the career workforce should be looking at these surveys to get a feel for the climate of the agency. Once you know where your agency is lacking, you can work on effecting targeted change. Knowing where you can make immediate impact in your agency can help ease the transition and promote efficiency beyond the initial few months. Giving employees opportunities to effect change can also be helpful in boosting engagement and morale.
  1. Maintain perspective. The transition can be especially difficult because it may feel as if your agency is under the media’s microscope. Fox recommended that instead of constantly worrying about what the media is saying about your agency or how the new Administration feels about your agency, you should instead think about why you are there and what mission impact you are trying to achieve through your work.

Looking forward, Fox underscored that the transition period is so much more than the traditionally cited first 100 days. “As we watch the confirmation process play out, it is going to be a while before the administration is fully staffed, so I think 100 days is probably not a great yardstick for us more generally and I think it is going to take a while before we really start to see things take shape and take root,” Fox concluded.

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