Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

When Employees Allege Wrongdoing, Tread Carefully

If you lead a large organization, chances are you will at some point receive an email from an employee, addressed directly to you, alleging he or she has suffered some workplace related wrong at the hands of one of your subordinate managers. In some cases the email will seek your intervention, as the boss, to fix it. Ignoring such correspondence isn’t a good idea, but getting personally involved is an equally bad idea.

In an age where transparency, accessibility, engagement and responsiveness are hailed as the hallmarks of sound leadership in public organizations, the notion that everyone in an organization should feel free to communicate with senior leaders sounds quite reasonable. Most senior leaders do care about the welfare and workplace satisfaction of those they lead. So when they receive compelling sounding stories about perceived workplace wrongs, it’s hard to resist the temptation to jump headlong into the conversation, often with a promise to personally “look into” or “get to the bottom” of the allegations. If you find yourself in such a position, resist that temptation.

Demonstrate trust in your organization’s grievance redress process. The rights of federal employees to be protected from all manner of unsafe...

10 Ways To Empower Government Employees

Public servants have faced the threat of a government shutdown more than once. Though fortunately these were averted, the sensation of having your head on a chopping block (even if temporary) can leave you unsettled and afraid. But we can empower government employees to have more control over their (our) own fates by implementing some structural changes that would promote and reward for productivity and efficiency -- facilitating effective government from the inside out.

A few areas where we can do this in a low-cost, high-impact way:

Mentoring: Times are changing quickly and employees need to learn to adapt their skills accordingly. An on-the-job buddy at a higher level can be an invaluable asset in retaining good employees and helping them learn the often-subtle skills they need to contribute effectively. And it doesn't cost anything other than time.

Technology training: People who do things the old way when there are faster, cheaper, better ways to get the job done may be comfortable, but also wasting taxpayer money and their own opportunity to grow professionally. Let this be the year we learn how to use technology. Again, it doesn't have to cost a cent if you get skilled employees to...

Small Changes in Your Digital Routine Can Make You Smarter–and More Sane

Back in the 13th century, scholars, and clerics complained about having an overwhelming abundance of books to read. One wonders what they would make of the constant stream of animal videos, articles, lists, gifs, blog posts and status updates that characterize the digital age.

Many people today struggle with information overload. We shift our attention between online and offline activities every 45 seconds, according to Gloria Mark, professor of informatics at the University of California at Irvine. Performing these kinds of mental gymnastics can lead to fatigue, stress, and poor decision-making. In a survey of 2,000 listeners for my podcast, Note to Self, 65 percent said that information overload affects their sleep. Over 45 percent reported headaches as a result of too much social media, email and online browsing. Nearly 30 percent had an internet-bred eye twitch. And one in three said that information overload was affecting their close relationships.

Clearly, we need to think harder about what all this information consumption is for—and how to address its impact on our work, relationships and health. With that in mind, Note to Self has been exploring how daily behavior modifications and specific goals can help people find focus (and...

Be the Leader You Want Your Boss to Be

I’d just finished a leadership program with a group of caring, committed professionals. They asked great questions, made important decisions, and then it happened. A middle level manager approached me and asked a question.

It’s a common question. I hear it every time I speak—in the Q&A, in the comments afterwards, in emailed follow-ups.

This manager asked, “David, I really appreciated the program today. How can I get this information in front of my boss’s boss?”

If you’ve ever read a book, attended a seminar, or heard a speaker and desperately wished your supervisors would learn how to do what you just heard, you’re not alone.

In fact, the phenomenon is so common that I’ve given it my own name. I call it SASRNT Syndrome—So And So Really Needs This.  It’s the reaction you have when you encounter really good information and immediately want to give it to someone else. “This is awesome. My boss totally needs this!”

There’s just one problem: your boss didn’t receive the information. You did.

Don’t Fail Before You Start

I call SASRNT a syndrome because it can hurt you if you...

How to Stay Calm on Public Transit

Since the beginning of this year, there have been at least nine slashings on the New York City subway.

This spate—up from three during the same time frame in 2015—is an “aberration,” according to the police commissioner, William J. Bratton. The attacks have been random, tied to no particular location, targeted at no particular type of person. The perpetrators have acted independently, on unclear motives.

Nevertheless, the MTA and the NYPD are ramping up preventative efforts. The Police Department will put additional teams of uniformed officers on patrol throughout the subway and has asked the transit authority to ban career criminals from public transportation—a motion that the MTA has previously resisted due to the questionable constitutionality of such a broad restriction.

Across the city, transit riders are nervous. Especially when such events are labeled a “trend,” it’s natural to think of them as inevitable and set oneself on edge. But is it productive?

No, says the Hunter College psychology professor Jason Young. “If you begin to worry, and keep that worry salient, it works to your own undoing because you can no longer function,” he says.

The question becomes: “How can you strike the balance between...