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deeded  
#1 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 7:17:04 AM(UTC)
deeded

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I few weeks ago, I attended a lecture at another federal agency on managing employees. I sent my boss an invite, but he declined because he scheduled a conference call for us and others at the same time.  On the morning of the lecture, the call was cancelled, so I let him know that I was going to attend the lecture.  He told me not to go because it was not relevant to my duties, and I needed to concentrate on my work.  I said it was relevant, though, to my career development, but I offered to attend the lecture on my own time and make up the 1.5 hours in the evening, which I did.  A few days later, he handed me an official reprimand for "disobeying orders", which will be on my record for 2 years.
 
I could understand the reprimand if we were in the military, but we're not.  In fact, our hierarchy is relatively flat.  So, you might be asking, why would he do this?  The real reason is that I've been agitating for several months to have fair performance evaluations, a clear statement of expectations of performance at my current level, and a clear set of criteria to be met for a promotion.  I, and every single person at my level, feel these issues need to be defined.  I've even gone so far as to request for another supervisor, which was denied.  Unfortunately, his only response has been avoidance...and the official reprimand.
 
I've tried contacting AFGE numerous times, but I haven't received any response.  I talked to the EEO counselor briefly (on vacation now), and I was told I may have a case.  I talked to a labor lawyer, but he said the issue was trivial for him. When I mentioned the EEO option, he said he didn't believe I had a case because there was no discrimination based on age, race, sex, etc.
 
Is the lawyer right?  What other options do I have to remove the reprimand?
frankgonzalez  
#2 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 8:48:10 AM(UTC)
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Unless there is an EEO basis (Race, color, age, religion, etc) then the lawyer is 100% correct.

Have you considered filing a grievance?

Na  
#3 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 9:14:20 AM(UTC)
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Deeded,

Base don the information you provided, the lawyer was probably right
 
You might consider the following approach.  Schedule a meeting with the supervisor and be contrite.  Admit what you did was wrong and give your word that it will not happen again.  Ask the supervisor to withdraw the letter of reprimand and replace it with a letter of warning.  The letter of warning does not go in your official personnel file. From your supervisor’s and progressive disciplinary action standpoint, a letter of warning is just as good as a reprimand if leave the work site without permission again.  I used this approach the last time I received a reprimand and it worked for me even though I had a contentious relationship with the supervisor.
Oosik  
#4 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 9:32:06 AM(UTC)
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deeded wrote:
I few weeks ago, I attended a lecture at another federal agency on managing employees. I sent my boss an invite, but he declined because he scheduled a conference call for us and others at the same time.  On the morning of the lecture, the call was cancelled, so I let him know that I was going to attend the lecture.  He told me not to go because it was not relevant to my duties, and I needed to concentrate on my work.  I said it was relevant, though, to my career development, but I offered to attend the lecture on my own time and make up the 1.5 hours in the evening, which I did.  A few days later, he handed me an official reprimand for "disobeying orders", which will be on my record for 2 years.
 
I could understand the reprimand if we were in the military, but we're not.  In fact, our hierarchy is relatively flat.  So, you might be asking, why would he do this?  The real reason is that I've been agitating for several months to have fair performance evaluations, a clear statement of expectations of performance at my current level, and a clear set of criteria to be met for a promotion.  I, and every single person at my level, feel these issues need to be defined.  I've even gone so far as to request for another supervisor, which was denied.  Unfortunately, his only response has been avoidance...and the official reprimand.
 
I've tried contacting AFGE numerous times, but I haven't received any response.  I talked to the EEO counselor briefly (on vacation now), and I was told I may have a case.  I talked to a labor lawyer, but he said the issue was trivial for him. When I mentioned the EEO option, he said he didn't believe I had a case because there was no discrimination based on age, race, sex, etc.
 
Is the lawyer right?  What other options do I have to remove the reprimand?


A reprimand is a minor disciplinary action that will go away in due time.  An employee needs to do nothing but avoid future conduct issues to get rid of a reprimand.

I honestly don't know any supervisor who likes having to prepare and issue disciplinary actions, they would far prefer to conduct the agency business for both supervisor and subordinate.   I have seen so many employees bristle at the idea of getting a disciplinary action, but they DID engage in misconduct.  Looking at porn at work, shopping on agency time, sleeping, misusing gov't credit cards, violating explicit orders (as in your case), getting into fights, etc. etc.  I have seen it all and there is really no dispute that misconduct occurred and yet so many employees files a complaint when they were clearly wrong. 

Consider the alternative for just a moment.  You were give an order that you disobeyed because you decided that you were a better judge of your time and work effort than the supervisor.  You may have fact been correct that the seminar you attended was extremely valuable, but how could agencies conduct their business if every employee decided for themselves what was the best use of their time?  Read the reprimand carefully from the perspective of the supervisor, not as a "victim" of "unreasonable discipline."   If the reprimand is well written it will give you guidance on appropriate conduct.  Think of the impact you could make if you went into your boss and admitted that you made a mistake and it wont happen again.  You can use this as an opportunity to clear the air.  Provided you both don't end up getting argumentative and listen to each other, you can accomplish far more than an complaint.  Go in with a set of questions rather than statements and you will be well on your way to restoring a relationship with your supervisor.  Clearly by your own term of "agitating" you probably have some bridges to mend.

You said you want fair performance evaluations - ask your boss how s/he would rate your performance without all the platitudes we put into evaluations.  Ask where you are falling short, where you are succeeding and how to improve across the board.

You state you want a clear statement of expectations of performance at your current level - help write it yourself and set some specific criteria and objective standards that will help establish the goals that are appropriate for your position.  Look up NSPS SMART objectives to get some insights on how to draft clear and objective performance objectives.  Even if you aren't under this DoD system (as a union member you would not even if in the DoD) it can still give you some great guidance.

You want a clear set of criteria to be met for a promotion - then look at position announcements and what they are looking for.  Ask your boss(es) what could be done to enhance promotion potential.


freeageless  
#5 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 9:39:52 AM(UTC)
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The best suggestion is the one that was given to you by Na. Ask the supervisor if he would change your letter to a letter of warning, since it was your first offense. Also, put in your response letter that since it was your first offense, based on progressive discipline it should have been a letter of warning. Also, give a copy of your response to your MER specialist, he will probably make the decision anyway. Occasionally, you run across one who has a soul and he or she may very well support you. freeageless2010-05-06 17:49:45
deeded  
#6 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 11:08:46 AM(UTC)
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All,
Thanks for your comments. Let me add some more information:

My supervisor didn't give me a promotion because s/he thought I wasn't doing enough on one project (my overall evaluation was positive).  This was despite the fact that my workload continually increased over the year, and I asked many times for either assistance with the project, or for it to be dropped from my responsibilities.  Instead, I was told to "figure it out", and of course, I tried.  I talked to my peers, and they all had the same issues.  We all feel that we've been given a bait-and-switch: promises in writing and verbally of upward mobility and career development, but no actual steps taken.

Anyway, I worked on these issues with my supervisor for about a year. After I didn't receive the promotion, I realized there was no hope of the relationship working out, so I asked to be removed from the project we both worked on directly.  So the supervisor placed me on another project on the condition I transition off the other project over time. However, as the months passed, the supervisor said s/he really wanted me to stay on the other project AND work on the new project.  I balked, and requested that I take one project or the other, but not both.

So that leads me to the "warning". My supervisor gave me a "note of caution" saying, "everyone has the same work as you, stop complaining, and if you don't like it, seek therapy (EAP)". We had a heated exchange over this, but that was it.

And then, a few weeks later, I go to the lecture and receive the reprimand. I said, "If you told me you'd give me a reprimand for going to the lecture, I wouldn't have gone." The supervisor said, "The 'note of caution' was the warning."  But in fact, it wasn't. The "warning" was to, essentially, stop complaining, which is different from "following orders".

Anyway, I'll respond directly to you all in a sec...
deeded  
#7 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 11:17:59 AM(UTC)
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Oosik, I see your point about going back to the supervisor, apologizing, and asking for the reprimand to be removed, and I will probably give it a shot.  But, as you can see from the history, there is little chance of this happening
.  So, I need other options
.

And
, as far as definitions of fair performance evaluations, expectations,
and promotion criteria, I have already made numerous suggestions to my supervisor, but the problems were trivialized and there's a lack of will to do anything to solve them.  And I understand why: these definitions are very difficult to determine and time-consuming, especially when they are for knowledge workers.  How do you measure one's impact on a project by uncovering a problem and solving it? This is difficult, but not impossible, to value.  It just requires the will and resources to accomplish this.  But in my position, I am not at liberty to find those resources. And I do not have the authority to prioritize the issues in the organization. So to put these problems on me is a bit disingenuous. I've tried working with them for over a year, but with no success. What I got instead was vague direction and promises that things will be better.

Also, I agree with you that it's logical that most supervisors wouldn't want to deal with these admin actions, but you're assuming too much that people are rational, and this supervisor isn't. At the same time my reprimand was given, I was told we wouldn't be working on the same project. In other words, s/he wouldn't be dealing with me anymore. So, why issue the reprimand and risk further complications with defending it? It makes sense only if you're emotional and trying to strike out at someone.
..

 

deeded  
#8 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 11:20:45 AM(UTC)
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frankgonzalez,
How do I file a grievance?  I googled "filing a grievance federal government" but only found EEOC.

All,
Did I really receive a "warning" with the "stop complaining" letter?  If so, what other options do I have?

freeageless,
What's a MER specialist?  Googled that, too, and didn't find anything.

Thanks again for all your help.

-D

Brothaman  
#9 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 11:21:44 AM(UTC)
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Deeded, if getting the reprimand removed was the only concern you had, then Na's response is the best option.

Oosik's  response is best, because it addresses, both the reprimand and performance/evaluation issues you have.

Based on your post, my suggestion is for you to get out of there on your terms...not the Agency's terms...

freeageless  
#10 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 11:41:32 AM(UTC)
freeageless

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Deeded, the MER specialist is the employee relations specialist. He or she normally writes the letter of warning or reprimand for the supervisor. They usually use boiler plate formats, that have been devised by others. They just fill in the blanks. In other words, they are basically secretaries to the managers or supervisors. They advise the manager on disciplinary matters.
frankgonzalez  
#11 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 8:37:15 PM(UTC)
frankgonzalez

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deeded wrote:

frankgonzalez,
How do I file a grievance?  I googled "filing a grievance federal government" but only found EEOC.

All,
Did I really receive a "warning" with the "stop complaining" letter?  If so, what other options do I have?

freeageless,
What's a MER specialist?  Googled that, too, and didn't find anything.

Thanks again for all your help.

-D


Are you in the bargaining unit?  You do not have to be in the union to be be in the bargaining unit.  Ask them on how to file your grievance and they will take it from there.  If you are not in the bargaining unit, check with your HR department on the process.

I found this on the web that may help youhttp://www.afsa.org/mbr/grievance.cfm
frankgonzalez2010-05-07 04:44:00
tucker515  
#12 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 8:43:08 PM(UTC)
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Every agency is required to have an administrative grievance procedure for employees not in a bargaining unuit. YOu can ask your HR office for the procedure.
I am sorry, but I do not have the time to respond to private messages. I will not respond to them.
Mickey12  
#13 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 9:12:12 PM(UTC)
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1. You were told not to go by your supervisor. You should not have gone.

2. Do not embellish the issue with all of your other issues.

3. If the person already has a problem with you, don't continue to give him/her fuel for the fire, because now you finally gave this person a definite issue to nail you on.

4. Look for another job, this one will not improve. You will be denied anything you ask for, even if it is job related, because of personal issues your supervisor has with you. You will continue to be dogged by this person. He/She will continue to nit pick your work, find fault with you, and generally make life miserable. Get away while you can, before he/she continues to build a paper trail on you.

Knight  
#14 Posted : Thursday, May 06, 2010 10:53:21 PM(UTC)
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Here is some hindsight advice. You mention that you attended the brieifng on your time but made up the 1.5 hours in the evening. You probably should have put in for leave and if it was denied, not go. Your boss sounds like they are on a power trip or scared of your potentual and do not want to allow you to improve yourself.
 
Consider moving ASAP, things will not improve. I knw of an employee that had leave approved and then denied over the weekend and was charged AWOL. Fought that, won and then was fired for small issues. Fought that, 2 years later re-instated and fired within 90 days by the same supervisor. The agency did nothing, acting shocked and denying that the supervisor might retaliate against this employee.
 
Good luck.
StellaMaris  
#15 Posted : Friday, May 07, 2010 7:51:50 AM(UTC)
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Try to find another job before it gets worse.  
Great Spirit, let me not judge another until I have walked in his moccasins a moon or two.
deeded  
#16 Posted : Saturday, May 08, 2010 4:31:08 AM(UTC)
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frankgonzalez, tucker515, Knight,
Thank you all for your advice. I definitely need to fight this, and these tips will help.
StellaMaris  
#17 Posted : Saturday, May 08, 2010 5:21:21 AM(UTC)
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I truly wish you well in "fighting" this.  I would wager that much will depend on your "healed" relationship with your supervisor.  Unfortunately, if your supervisor is on the rampage, I'm not so sure you will get very far.  The bottom line is that you failed to follow orders.  This is insubordination.

If it was me, I would forget about "fighting" it.  I would concentrate on lobbying to get it removed in a cooperative way.  Otherwise, if there is too much bad blood now, look for another job and get out of there. 

Great Spirit, let me not judge another until I have walked in his moccasins a moon or two.
debasisg  
#18 Posted : Friday, May 28, 2010 10:45:36 PM(UTC)
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I am not surprised. The old government system often produces such bad supervisors. In my opinion, and if believe everything you said is correct and in good intention, that supervisor is a dead wood in the government system and cannot be kicked out easily.

Because of the way the government works, I believe you are stuck. The more you fight it, you likely make your life more difficult.

One another thing I am not sure if you considered. The next time you suggest something like this, have a face-to-face conversation with your negotiation skills.
deeded  
#19 Posted : Monday, January 31, 2011 2:20:10 PM(UTC)
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All,


I have good news. I managed to get a new boss who has
fiercely loyal employees, so I'm very happy, and I'm glad I didn't listen to the advice to quit.  But, it wasn't easy,
it didn't happen quickly, and not everything I did succeeded. Ultimately, I'm hoping my story can give someone else confidence to pursue every option.


Here's what I did.




First, I networked like crazy within my org.  I needed advice from better-placed individuals
on options for protecting myself. These folks were also a great resource for intel on the reputation, plans, and motivations of my boss.  This gave me a lot more perspective on my situation and the hope that I could change it.  




At any rate, many of my colleagues suggested that I find a different position within the org.  Fortunately, several directors wanted to give me a detail.  But, my boss’s boss wouldn’t allow it.  Regardless, I was building alliances, and it was a demonstration to upper management that I was valued.  Anyway, considering there was no option to file a grievance, my colleagues suggested I get a lawyer.




Luckily, I found a colleague who was a former labor lawyer. They
said that, while this was not worth fighting in court, if my boss tried to
build a case against me, then the reprimand would probably not be considered because the infraction was minor and ridiculous.  So, my next step was to form a union.




I contacted several members of a local branch of the AFGE over
many weeks, but I didn't get through. I went to the AFGE office, but they said
I had to make an appointment. I also contacted the NTEU, but they didn't seem interested.
Finally, someone at the local AFGE said he was interested in helping us form a
bargaining unit and would file the paperwork with FLRA on our behalf. He promised to meet again...but we never did.




I thought about filing the paperwork myself, but I was
concerned about the repercussions if we failed to get 30% of the employees on board.  And if it succeeded, we didn't
have resources anyway. The whole point was to link up to an established union.
And if this union was barely responsive to increasing its membership, then how could we expect them to respond when we needed help?




Don't get me wrong; I'm not knocking these entire orgs. But I was disappointed with this experience.




Then, another opportunity developed. My boss’s boss was
fired, and so I thought about a detail again. Unfortunately, my boss briefed the new boss on my situation, and that opportunity closed.




Next, I proposed to upper management a new position that
would fill a very persistent need in our org and that utilized my skills. Unfortunately, upper management didn’t value the need.




Left with little choice, I spilled everything to upper management and requested a transfer to a new boss.  They were visibly disgusted by my boss’s actions, but they were loath to make the transfer.  Over several weeks, they acted like they were
my friend and interested in my career. Then they suggested, in very friendly tones, that perhaps my best option was to leave.  Instead, I made it very clear to them that I’m
not looking for conflict, but if my boss continues to harass me, I will not back down.




Immediately, my boss backed off.  A few months later, I had a new boss.




The icing on the cake was that my old boss was passed over for promotion by several lesser experienced individuals…




Here’s the moral: I believe that if you honestly feel that
you’ve been wronged by someone – and that everyone else sees the injustice –
then you owe it to yourself not to back down. You need to pursue, within reason, all your rights available to you.  It may make you nervous, and it may make you uncomfortable. But, I believe that maintaining your integrity is worth the suffering.  Even if upper management said I was wrong, even
if I didn’t get a new boss, I know that I was wronged and what I did to rectify
the situation and how I did it was correct, and I could have lived with that regardless
of the results. I could not have lived, though, with leaving my org and not
pursuing all my options to improve my situation there. I don’t think anyone else should either. Don’t give up, and don’t let the *******s grind you down.



Copper  
#20 Posted : Tuesday, February 01, 2011 1:53:24 AM(UTC)
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Deeded:
Glad it worked out for you.  Sometimes there are efforts behind the scenes that deal appropriately with a rogue supervisor(s).  I didn't understand that myself until I moved up and witnessed or had to deal with a rogue or two.  Fortunately these cases were few.  There are bad supervisors just as there are bad employees.  My guess is the population of each is proportional.
Good luck with your new job situation.
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