Manuevering Through Federal HR Processes: Flexibility Required

It was with the best of intentions that Section 2301, Title 5, United States Code was developed. The Merit System Principles were developed to ensure equity in the federal personnel (aka HR) management process.  

From Principle 1, recruitment should be from qualified individuals from appropriate sources in an endeavor to achieve a work force from all segments of society, and selection and advancement should be determined solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge and skills, after fair and open competition which assures that all receive equal opportunity,  to Principle 9, Employees should be protected against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information which the employees reasonably believe evidences -- a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or  mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety,  they are great principles.

Start with great intentions, add a dash of original design, sprinkle subsequent redesign, cut in the interests and mandates of multiple agencies and bake over times that are changing and what do you get? Great principles buried amongst a very complex, robust and seemingly restrictive set of rules and mandatory processes.

Am I the only one who knows this? No, absolutely not. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is conducting demonstration projects in different agencies to test new HR innovations or apply existing HR innovations in new surroundings, HR Flexibilities are offered within the law and tools are developed to assist HR Leaders in identifying and fully utilizing them, and there is a dedication of time and resources to Strategic HR Management.

I know that we are heading in the right direction and accept that things don't move fast in large agencies.  Knowing that, however, doesn't help when I sit face to face with a very frustrated supervisor. At the facility level, we are bound by rules and practices that have not changed with the times. It is my job to find the flexibility, while ensuring our actions are consistent with Merit Systems Principles and would not constitute a Prohibited Personnel Practice. Let us not forget about ensuring our actions are consistent with the Master Agreement or that they would not constitute an Unfair Labor Practice.

One thing I have learned is that there is always flexibility in the process. At times, flexibility can be found within the very rules that seem to bind us. At times, the flexibility lies with management.  Firmly stand your ground, be unwilling to consider alternatives and gripe about the system in which we work and it will seem the best of intentions have gone awry. They have not. 

You can get what you want if you are willing to be flexible.