How to communicate with feds to calm shutdown fears

Wednesday - 4/6/2011, 6:19pm EDT

John Salamone, former executive director, CHCO Council at OPM

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

A fast-approaching budget deadline is creating increasing anxiety among federal workers that the government could shut down if Congress does not reach a deal.

"Federal employees are anxious and nervous and frustrated," said John Salamone, senior consultant for Federal Management Partners and the former executive director of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council at the Office of Personnel Management.

According to an online poll by Federal News Radio, 95 percent of people polled said the budget battle was impacting their morale.

Keeping employee morale high hinges on employee recognition, opportunities for employees to perform and a positive work environment, Salamone said.

"The problem that we have right now - the biggest thing - is that positive work environment," Salamone said.

Now is the opportunity for chief human capital officers to proactively answer employees' questions.

"It's almost like a campaign from the chief human capital officer to go out and beat the drums. Talk about the work we're doing in the agencies that are really important," Salamone said.

And even if they do not have all of the answers, federal managers can tell employees what they can likely expect to happen.

"Give assurances that agencies are working on plans and the answers will be coming from the administration, the answers will be coming form the secretary's office. We are working on it and we will have information as soon as we can make it available," he said.

The shutdown may not impact federal morale over the long-term, but feds face accusations of being of overpaid and underworked. In Congress, a slew of legislative proposals attack federal pay and benefits through furloughs, pay freezes and the elimination of a pension.

All of these issues combined create a "cascading effect" on the federal workforce's morale, Salamone said.

Salamone also warned that tension around budget will only heighten, with the budget battle for the fiscal year 2012 budget combined with next year being an election year -

"Not to be a doom and gloom sort of person, but I think the stakes are much higher next year as well," Salamone said.

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