Boosting Morale

The pay freeze has many employees feeling left out in the cold. But money isn't the only way to motivate workers. "Most employees in the federal market aren't necessarily inspired by pay. They are more tied to the mission," says Keather Snyder, director of federal markets at AchieveGlobal, a human resources consulting firm. So, how can managers help employees keep the faith during these trying times?

Empower. Give employees opportunities to offer feedback, and more important, involve them directly in the decision-making process, Snyder advises. Allow them to find solutions to issues, such as improving customer service.

Listen. Focus on employees and connect with them on a human level. In particular, make sure to entertain different viewpoints to avoid tunnel vision.

Innovate. Cash might be king, but there are other benefits to public service some employees consider more valuable, says Snyder. Flexible work hours, training and tuition reimbursement are a few available incentives. Ask employees what their priorities are, and figure out how to craft a mutually beneficial arrangement. "I don't really get a sense that our government leaders and our systems are well-aligned to communicate those benefits directly," she says.

-Kellie Lunney

Famous Feds

Federal jobs mark humble beginnings for many celebs. Actor Steve Carell of The Office was a letter carrier, for example, and Gerald Ford pulled duty as a park ranger. Readers recently weighed in on's Burning Question: Who are the most famous former feds?

Painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler of "Whistler's Mother" fame worked in the etching division of the Office of Coast Survey, now part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Moby Dick author Herman Melville was a U.S. Customs Service inspector in New York. Movie star Gary Cooper was a seasonal ranger at Yellowstone National Park. Actor Gene Hackman was a disk jockey for the Armed Forces Radio Network as a U.S. Marine in China. John McAfee, the designer of the McAfee antivirus computer security program, was a programmer for NASA. And Chris Matthews, TV news anchor and political commentator, served on the U.S. Capitol Police force.

-Susan Fourney

Deadly Waste

Think Republicans will have a hard time finding fat to trim from the federal budget? One Senate deficit hawk doesn't think so. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in late December released the report "Wastebook 2010," highlighting 100 projects he believes would "hardly merit tax dollars in flush times." Take, for instance, $615,000 in federal funds awarded to the University of California at Santa Cruz to digitize and preserve Grateful Dead memorabilia for posterity.

Or the $239,100 the National Science Foundation contributed to a Stanford University study on Internet dating with few, if any, policy implications. Then there is the $175 million the Veterans Affairs Department allegedly spends annually to maintain empty buildings such as a pink, octagonal monkey house in Dayton, Ohio. "Examples like these are too numerous to count," Coburn wrote in the report's introduction.

Even if everyone could agree that the figures in the report are accurate and that such spending is over the top (and not everyone does: VA, for example, told Coburn's staff it only spent $34 million on unused buildings and advocacy groups would like some of the space to go to homeless vets), it adds up to about $11.5 billion in waste. The government would have to go on a much stricter diet to meet House Republicans' pre-election promise of cutting $100 billion from domestic spending in one year.

-Amelia Gruber

Getting Into The Game

The Defense Acquisition University has launched a collection of online games that are educational and fun. The website has 13 games, including Select-a-Cell, which explains the life-cycle process by taking gamers through a mock acquisition of cell phones.

And then there's Procurement Investigation, designed to help pinpoint fraud. The university's Global Learning Technologies Center plans to release one game a month to keep players coming back. Next up-Time Traveler: A Rates Game.

-Bob Brewin

Eminent Domain

Does it seem odd that the government's central website for job seekers would be found at a dotcom address? Though advertised prominently as, the site run by the Office of Personnel Management can be accessed just as readily at the private sector-sounding URL of

Recalling perhaps the confusion more than a decade ago when the Web address brought visitors to a porn site, OPM in the late 1990s made a point of reserving as an identical companion landing page to the dotgov address. As an agency spokesperson recently explained, it was "just another way to help folks who don't have all the right information."

-Charles S. Clark

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story noted that James Abbott McNeill Whistler worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Coast Survey. His tenure at the agency was before it became part of NOAA.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.