Department of Defense: General Schedule May Have a Long Tenure, But Still Effective; Dick Grote-Style Pay-for Performance is a True Failure

Artist: michael sloan
Artist: michael sloan

It seems that the idea of pay for performance-no matter the numerous failures (documented, in part, in this blog)-has yet again reared its failed head at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Pay for performance is to replace an “aged” General Schedule system, the DoD proponents posited. A system’s age is irrelevant; whether it functions in a way that those it applies to can accept is more important.

The DoD proponents propose undemocratic, unfair, and dictatorial pay-for-performance policies that betray the democratic republic foundations of the country. In addition, the DoD proponents should never forget that the employees are also United States citizens and permanent residents and taxpayers and that agencies have authority through the consent of U.S. citizens and residents.

Bucket (rank) Percentage (amounts can be adjusted) Effect
A 20 Lavish rewards, encouragement
B 70 Little to paltry increase
C 10 Pressure to quit, firing

The DoD, and their bosses in the Congress and in the Executive Branch, should tread carefully in any move to alter the General Schedule unless the replacement can be well accepted as the General Schedule. Pay-for-performance systems are at their foundation unfair, subject to management abuse and manipulation without equivalent accountability for those managers, and render the employee powerless and subject to management ambush and destruction of employee livelihoods.

Dick Grote’s Forced Ranking Amazon.com [New York Times article] Department of Defense [Washington Post column by Joe Davidson]
Anytime Feedback Tool-allows co-workers to send feedback to one’s manager without the targeted employee’s knowledge. Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, is an investor in Workday, which seeks to bring this “gem” to other organizations which purchase it. “Force of the Future launches a strong attack on the General Schedule, saying it “is wholly inflexible and ill-suited to attract critical skills or motivate high performers.” In the name of fairness, “the promotion system primarily rewards time in grade,” the document adds, “instead of identifying, rewarding, and motivating high performers, the GS system rewards mediocrity.” ” [Note: Dick Grote uses similar language. http://www.groteconsulting.com/the-rationale-for-forced-ranking/]
Manager sets tough objectives and expects the employee to figure out how to satisfy the manager’s expectations “Molly Jay, an early member of the Kindle team, said she received high ratings for years. But when she began traveling to care for her father, who was suffering from cancer, and cut back working on nights and weekends, her status changed. She was blocked from transferring to a less pressure-filled job, she said, and her boss told her she was “a problem.” As her father was dying, she took unpaid leave to care for him and never returned to Amazon.

“When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness,” she said.”

“Officials want managers to have more authority so they can “divest low performers” —  in other words, fire them. “The current performance management system does not effectively hold low performers accountable, offering few negative consequences when an employee falls short of expectations, and gives supervisors unwieldy options for intervening,” the DOD proposal says.”
Callibration meeting Each year, the internal competition culminates at an extended semi-open tournament called an Organization Level Review, where managers debate subordinates’ rankings, assigning and reassigning names to boxes in a matrix projected on the wall. In recent years, other large companies, including Microsoft, General Electric and Accenture Consulting, have dropped the practice — often called stack ranking, or “rank and yank” — in part because it can force managers to get rid of valuable talent just to meet quotas.

Preparing is like getting ready for a court case, many supervisors say: To avoid losing good members of their teams — which could spell doom — they must come armed with paper trails to defend the wrongfully accused and incriminate members of competing groups. Or they adopt a strategy of choosing sacrificial lambs to protect more essential players. “You learn how to diplomatically throw people under the bus,” said a marketer who spent six years in the retail division. “It’s a horrible feeling.”

Unique to Discipline Without Punishment is the final step before an employee’s termination – the Decision Making Leave. The employee is suspended for a day with full pay. On this day he must make a final decision: either solve the problem and commit to fully acceptable performance, or quit and find more satisfying employment somewhere else. Performance Improvement Plan--“confidential” and among other expectations of the PIP is that the responsibility for bringing performance to the acceptable level rests with the targeted employee. “It would allow top officials to suspend an employee without pay. They would have 30 days to prepare a written statement of specific charges, but the employee would have just seven days to respond. That time discrepancy is one example of the plan’s power shift.”
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