VA Employees Launch a 'Rate My Professors' for Federal Supervisors
The new site will allow employees to anonymously review their bosses.
Often, when college students are contemplating class enrollments, they turn to the website Ratemyprofessors.com to aid in their decision making.
The site allows students to review assessments of those leading the class from individuals who have already taken it. They can look at overall quality, examine the difficulty, read reviews, determine if attendance is necessary and—until a few years ago—even see if the teachers were considered attractive.
Doug Massey, an attorney at the Veterans Affairs Department, has long wondered why a similar platform was not available for supervisors in the federal government. So, with the help of his union—the local council of the American Federation of Government Employees—he built one.
The project will have a limited reach, at least initially: the site will be open only for supervisors at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, located within VA’s central office in Washington, D.C. A thousand attorneys at the appeals board represented by the AFGE council will receive links to the site, though only dues paying members will be able to make submissions. Eventually, however, the team behind the site has ambitions to grow it to a much larger population.
Massey, together with a few colleagues, hired three college students to build the site, who did so as a capstone project. It is now almost ready for launch, with Massey soliciting volunteers to test the site. It will go live Nov. 9.
Users will rate their supervisors on a one-to-five scale on a series of criteria, including interpersonal skills, knowledge, availability, support, communication, mentoring and leadership. They will also provide an overall score on whether they would recommend working for that person.
Another VA employee and union member who helped build the site said he previously had the idea of building a similar site for officers in the military, but never had the time to actually do it. His hope for that site was similar to his goals for this one: to help employees make an informed decision about whether they want to join a particular team. He reflected on the utility of the academic equivalent to him when he was in college.
“Do I really want to take a class with that professor?” he had asked himself. “Was it an easy A? Does he require a lot of long papers?”
To Massey, the advantage of the site lies more in accountability. Employees often do not get to choose who their manager is, he noted, but it may incentivize a rating-conscious manager to treat their employees better. It would also make it harder for a malfeasant supervisor to simply transfer to a different facility or agency.
“Usually people get evaluated by people above them, but if you’re managing people below you, how do you know how they are doing?” Massey said. “The best people to evaluate a supervisor are the people who work for that supervisor.”
Massey envisions the site will empower employees by allowing for anonymous reviews, while also providing an insight for senior management to see how their staff are performing down the chain. Employees are excited about the site, he said—many of whom are eager to post positive things about their bosses—while some supervisors who have caught wind of the project have expressed some trepidation about it.
The employee who helped build the site said it would be easy to replicate for other union councils, either within VA or outside it. He called the initial use a “proof of concept” and its creators will closely monitor how many people use it. Massey noted he has already garnered interest from colleagues throughout VA and at other federal departments.
Massey said he is planning to give a positive review to virtually every supervisor he has had in his 25 years at VA, though he noted his experience is not universal and the site will help level the playing field.
“Sometimes we’re getting reviewed by people who aren’t the best at their jobs,” Massey said.