Management Matters Management MattersManagement Matters
Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

The Federal Managers Who Aren’t Afraid to Take Risks

The common perception is that, as a group, federal managers tend to be risk averse. However, new research based on data from the Office of Personnel Management’s annual federal employee viewpoint survey suggests that’s not exactly the case: Managers in both high-performing and low-performing organizations tend to be risk takers. They probably feel they have little to lose by trying something new. In contrast, it’s managers in stable, middle-of-the-road organizations who tend to be risk averse.

These insights are based on research by Sean and Jill Nicholson-Crotty and Sergio Fernandez in an article appearing in the current issue of Public Administration Review. To reach their conclusions, they applied a “relative risk” model to analyze survey response data from 2011 and 2013. They looked at survey data related to “managerial decisions regarding the encouragement of innovation, empowerment practices, and delegation of decisionmaking authority” to determine the extent to which these practices were used in different organizations across the federal government. The authors judge these management practices as “risky” since the end results cannot be known at the time they are undertaken.

The annual federal employee viewpoint survey generates data on about 28,000 workplaces across the government. The...

Google Memo Completely Misses How Implicit Biases Harm Women

Workplace biases are back in the national conversation, thanks to the recent memo by a Google employee. The memo’s author challenges the company’s diversity policies, arguing that psychological differences between men and women explain why fewer women work in tech.

He also minimizes the effect that unconscious biases have on women in the workplace. Even though most of us believe that we value others equally and don’t discriminate, research shows that our unconscious beliefs show up in our actions.

I am a professor of economics at a women’s college, focusing on issues that women face in the labor market. To me, the evidence is clear that implicit bias is still prevalent in today’s workplace, even after years of federal and state laws that make discrimination illegal – and that bias often leads to actual economic harm.

One recent analysis by the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development states that gender based discrimination has decreased global income by 16 percent, or US$12 trillion. Since research documents that women will devote more of their financial resources to spending on the needs of children than do men, it is especially important to families that women have economic empowerment...

The 13 Questions Google Asks About Its Managers When It Gathers Employee Feedback

If you internalize any management advice, may it be this: Ask for and give regular feedback.

Countless studies have proven that frequent, specific feedback (be it critique or constructive praise) increases employee satisfaction, engagement, and performance, while fostering a culture of psychological safety organization-wide.

However, more often than not, workplace feedback only comes from the top-down. This can breed resentment and frustration among underlings, while handicapping leaders from learning invaluable development lessons themselves.

To ensure managers are learning from their teams, Google asks employees to fill out a 13-question manager feedback survey (on a Google form, naturally) on a semi-annual basis. The responses are recorded confidentially, and managers receive a report of anonymized, aggregated feedback, plus verbatim answers to two open-ended questions at the end of the form.

“The feedback a manager gets through this survey is purely developmental,” Google says. “It isn’t directly considered in performance or compensation reviews, in the hope that Googlers will be honest and constructive with their feedback.”

The first 11 questions ask employees to rate whether they agree or disagree with statements about their manager using a five-point Likert scale (from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”). Google says that each statement is based...

Trump and Obama Have One Surprising Thing in Common – The Words They Use

Six months have passed since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office.

His administration remains deeply understaffed. His legislative agenda is stymied. He has been active in issuing executive orders, but many are toothless, others are only in the early stages of undoing Obama policies and some are tied up in the courts. So far, Trump’s leadership has mostly been defined by his rhetoric.

And his rhetoric, the conventional wisdom holds, could not be more different from his predecessor’s.

Barack Obama was, as president, eloquent. His language was sophisticated. He spoke in measured tones and advanced informed, reasoned dialogue.

Donald Trump is inarticulate and brusque. His language is simplistic. He dishes out invective. He shows so little regard for the facts that some say he’s the exemplar of a “bullshit artist.” And he promotes a dialogue of the deaf.

The differences between Trump’s and Obama’s rhetorical styles seem stark. Yet, when we set aside the presidents’ speaking styles and looked more carefully at the specific words Trump employed in his first months in office, we were surprised to discover that, in certain ways, these two presidents are remarkably like each other and unlike their predecessors. Here...

Why Do Women Bully Each Other at Work?

The bitches, as Shannon saw it, came in three varieties. She categorized them on her personal blog, in a post titled “Beware the Female BigLaw Partner.”

First was the “aggressive bitch”—a certain kind of high-ranking woman at the firm where she worked who didn’t think twice about “verbally assaulting anyone.” When one such partner’s name appeared on caller ID, Shannon told me, “we would just freak out.”

Next was the two-faced “passive-aggressive bitch,” whose “subtle, semi-rude emails” hinted that “you really shouldn’t leave before 6:30.” She was arguably worse than the aggressive bitch, because you might never know where you stand.

Last but not least, the “tuned-out, indifferent bitch,” Shannon wrote, “is so busy, both with work and family, that they don’t have time for anything … This partner is not trying to be mean, but hey, they got assignments at midnight when they were associates. So you will too.

“There obviously are exceptions,” she added. “But there aren’t many.”

You would expect someone like Shannon, who asked that I use only her first name, to thrive in an elite law firm. When she graduated in the mid-2000s from the University of Pennsylvania Law...