Managers Can Fire Bad Feds, They Just Don’t

The Merit Systems Protection Board has compiled research to help agencies deal with poor performers.

Federal managers could easily fire most poor performing employees early in their career, they just don’t. They also could quickly remove new supervisors from positions for which they turn out to be ill suited and return them to the non-supervisory roles at which they excelled. But they rarely do. That’s according to research compiled by the Merit Service Protection Board and released Tuesday.

In “Adverse Actions: The Rules and the Reality,” MSPB aims to give federal managers a guide to better managing the workforce by more quickly shedding poor performers.

For starters, new employees and new supervisors almost always serve in a probationary capacity for one or two years. During that time, they can be fired with no advance notice and very limited or no right of appeal, depending on the position.  

“One of our primary findings was that agencies were not using the probationary period as intended,” MSPB notes.

Likewise, not everyone promoted to a supervisor position is cut out for the job and new supervisors also must complete a probationary period. Under the law, if they don’t perform well, they should be moved to non-supervisory jobs. But that rarely happens, according to MSPB research. Data show that just over one-third of surveyed supervisors reported that they were assessed during the probationary period.

(Image via Andrey_Popov/