Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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And now—back by popular demand—it’s pay for performance

Pay for performance is the zombie of pay systems. Just when it seems to be dead, it’s up and walking around again.

Employee organizations that helped bury one major PFP system—the National Security Personnel System—are back on the offensive.

For example, in testimony on federal pay issues today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Federal Workforce Subcommittee, National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley was back in the thick of it, once again telling lawmakers that alternative pay systems have failed to help agencies recruit and retain high-quality employees—or to motivate them to better achieve agency missions.

“I don’t know of a single so-called pay-for-performance system that is showing progress on either of those goals,” said Kelley.

Of course that won’t stop champions of the “government should operate more like a business” approach from once more calling for reforms that give agencies the same pay-setting powers enjoyed by most private-sector companies.

(The National Active and Retires Federal Employees Association also was in Washington this week to conduct legislative training. Chief among the group’s goals: Ramp up push-back by members against proposed changes to federal pay and benefits.)

Looks like it’s time for round two.


Posted by Phil Piemonte on Mar 09, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Fri, Mar 18, 2011

I came from the private sector and believe me it is pay for performance. This is a total joke here people who do absolutely NOTHING but sit around and complain and still get the same amount as the person who works their tail off. Is that fair? I don't think so. But like someone mentioned before; they go crying to the union, blah, blah, blah, get over it and face reality. Maybe we should do away with the unions, they are really not that good anyway.

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 dan

"Pay for Performance" would be one sure way of undermining Federal laws of all kinds. If an agency likes a particular Congressional mandate and wants the mandate to suceed, it will reward those employees whose positions are aligned with that particular mandate. And if the same agency wants to ignore or undermine another mandate that it does not like or want, it can do so by making life difficult for employees whose positions are aligned with the unwanted mandate. Government agencies do not make widgets. They implement public policy and mandates. There is too much room for mischief in the "Pay for Performance" concept. Pay for performance may be great for widget makers in the private sector, but is poorly suited to government. I don't expect brash newcomers to Congress to understand that fundamental difference - yet.

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 Patti maryland

Many government workers work very hard for their pay. But Pay for Performance is still a joke. It still comes down to "If I like You or Not" just like performance appraisals. Goals should be set for every employee to attain to determine raises and bonuses. Every employee should be held accountable. Until the Government starts running like a business then maybe pay for performance will work. But then again, look at some of the top CEOs that do a rotten job and get compensated way beyond the scope of government. Is there a winning answer?

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 JIM Colorado

The vast majority of supervisors and managers who are rating officials don't like doing performance appraisals in the first place, much less having to rank their employees and than make pay decisions separating from the haves from the have nots. The have nots get upset and the complaints,union grievances and EEO allegations of discrimination start rolling in. It's also a bad idea because there is a lack of empirical measurement methods to assess performance in many public sector occupations. Carter's Civil Service Reform Act was a joke when it came to merit pay. I spent 36 years as an HR advisor in this area and know what I am talking about.

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 Jack

Pay for performance, eh? I remember a time as an "un-skilled laborer" I was required to meet quotas. The widgit counter/supervisors were very specific: they had production goals to meet. If I wasn't fast enough, thorough enough, punctual enough, happy enough or smiley enough there was a problem. But it was a job. And the pay was decent for what it was. But that was a production line. The fed is decidedly light years more complex than a production line. So, there's a serious problem with trying to link 1940's thought-processes with management that is required in 2011. I believe that if PFP were implemented across the board in the Fed, you'd see service delivery slow to a crawl. You'd see employee's finding NO reason to go the extra mile: they would be thinking about how they would benefit before they performed the little stuff that is so important in the work place. You'd see the spirit of cooperation become very, very selective among employees AND, more importantly, toward managers. Implementing PFP is just asking for a quantum leap in subversive behavior due to the favoritism and bitterness it will most definitely gender.

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