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

Stop Pretending Your Colleagues Are Your Family

"It's a funny thing at this agency," she said. "You've got to be reaaaallllly careful who you talk to. Those people you see every day at work, they have friends you don't see. You catch my drift?"

"No." I felt completely stupid. Was she talking about the Mafia?

My friend shook her head. "Let me spell it out. These people have all worked here for a lot of years. And a lot of years is a very long time. Let's just say that many of them are close."

"I just cannot believe it," I said. "These people seem so..."

"So what? So boring?"

"Well, yeah, kinda." I looked over at another table, at a man attacking some orange chicken with his tie thrown over his suit. There was a folded-up newspaper on the table, which he appeared to be reading as he shoveled.

"Him? No."

"Remember these words forever," said my friend, grabbing my wrist a bit too firmly. "Because I am about to retire, and nobody else will tell it to you like it is. You never know who's sleeping with who in this town. So never burn your bridges, and never assume you...

Neurotic? Then Nothing is More Stressful Than Peace and Quiet, Research Shows

When you’re incredibly stressed and have a million things to sort out there can be nothing more annoying than zen yoga and deep breathing and people who tell you to chill.

A paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggest that such irritation isn’t simply irrational, as researchers found that neurotic people find anxiety-inducing environments more restorative than traditionally calm ones.

While it may seem strange that anyone could find crowded sidewalks more relaxing than the forest, the research say it makes sense that we would find it easier to be in environments that match our personality.

“Environments are restorative when individuals interacting with them require less directed attention resources,” they write. “It is possible that environmental compatibility, or the extent to which salient cues in the environment are compatible with an individual’s motivational orientation, affects the amount of attentional resources necessary to interact within an environment.”

For example, someone neurotic like Woody Allen could find a forest “very off-putting rather than rejuvenating,” co-author and Providence College professor Kevin Newman said in a statement.

Though the authors didn’t look at anyone with a clinical neurotic disorder, participants took a neurotic personally survey...

Don’t Let a Toxic Employee Define You

Every person who has spent any significant amount of time in a management role has encountered at least one employee from that warm place, and I am not talking about Phoenix. The best of the worst are master manipulators who work within the system confounding attempts to discipline or dismiss them with vexing, nose-thumbing ease. Along the way, these walking toxic waste dumps destroy group morale and drain the life energy for leading from their bosses.

While it would be nice to believe you could avoid these close encounters of the evil kind, life is never that easy. A bad apple slips through the hiring cracks. An employee passed over for a promotion feels slighted and seemingly devotes her free time to thinking of ways to torture you. The brilliant but mercurial employee you support because of her brilliance turns out to be the epicenter of dysfunction on your team. And those are just three I dealt with at various points in my career. I hear new examples regularly from my coaching clients.

These are often bitter, crushing situations filled with regrets and second-guesses and creeping self-doubt. “If only I had…” is the refrain I hear most often as managers...

How To Attract Millennials to the Public Sector

Currently, 60 percent of federal employees are over the age of 45, and nearly one-third of state and federal employees will be eligible to retire within four years. This large exodus of the workforce is referred to by some as the “silver tsunami.” With these baby boomers reaching retirement age and an improving U.S. economy, hiring qualified people and then retaining them for long-term success is becoming increasingly difficult for the public sector.

CPS HR Consulting, a public sector-focused human resource consulting firm, in conjunction with M/C/C, an integrated marketing communications firm, sat down with a group of millennials who were either working in, had previously worked in or are interested in working in the public sector, and asked them a few questions to gain insight into the mindset and mentality of this group. The results tell an interesting story about this new workforce.

What attracted you to the public sector?

Many of the millennials interviewed said they chose public service because they wanted to make a direct impact in the community. One interviewee interned at a private company right after graduation. She thought she would come in and become a corporate shark, but instead she saw...

What I Learned From My 360-Degree Assessment

It was finally complete and I was unexplainably anxious. I’d received my first annual review, which was extremely complementary. I was rated in the top 5 percent of my peers, but this next report had me nervous.

What had me so worked up was my 360-degree feedback, where my peers, my direct reports, and several others would anonymously answer questions about my leadership, my character and my professional competence.

According to my organization’s website, the assessment is meant to help me with individual development. It felt like little more than an administrative requirement. I had done well in my supervisor’s eyes, but I was nervous about how my peers and subordinates viewed me. Was this going to be good, bad, or ugly? Would someone use this as a chance to settle a score? What would my boss think of the report?

It started with a fancy header and some non-descript opening paragraphs, but I wanted to get to the meat of the report. What did they say about me? There was some numerical feedback ranking me on a scale of one to 10. There were some 8.5 averages, some 9.0 averages and a 7.8...