Federal managers combat attacks on employees

Thursday - 3/17/2011, 9:40am EDT

Patricia Niehaus, president, Federal Managers Association

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Are you fed up with pay freezes, continuing resolutions and people constantly questioning your value? So are members of the Federal Managers Association.

The entire government is in a holding pattern, said FMA president Patricia Niehaus, and with no budget halfway through the year, "it makes it very difficult to make any plans or any changes and improvements when you don't know when you're going to get your money."

The FMA is in Washington this week for the annual training and legislative conference. Yesterday members fanned out across Capitol Hill to take their concerns to lawmakers.

"Of course our primary agenda is to counter the attacks on the federal manager and federal employees," Neihaus told Federal News Radio, "and then also managerial training is at the top of our legislative agenda." FMA is working to make sure training gets funded. "We need to have that done immediately after someone is promoted to be a supervisor. You need to have immediate training so that you can avoid all the problems that ensue from an untrained supervisor."

After all, Niehaus pointed out, "you can mandate training all you want but if you don't fund it, people aren't going to get it."

But above the particulars, Niehaus said the FMA wants "to educate the new members of Congress as to what federal employees really are and what a federal manager does." Hopefully, meeting with members of Congress and putting a human face on the federal workforce will remind legislators that feds are people too.

It would seem, so far, that message hasn't gotten through, especially given continued cuts proposed around federal pay and benefits. "We've never seen legislation like this before," said Niehaus, "so it's absolutely the most challenging year that we've experienced yet, I believe."

Managers attending the conference will hopefully head back to their jobs, said Niehaus, feeling better about themselves and the value of their service. "We would like to encourage them, that we are working for them, there is hope at the end of the tunnel."

As for her own sort of shuttle diplomacy, back at her job as a labor relations officer at Travis Air Force Base just north of the San Francisco Bay Area, Niehaus is often in the position of educating federal managers about Washington. "The most (frequent) comment I hear is 'why can't they give us our money?' because a lot of employees on my installation just don't understand why we have continuing resolution after continuing resolution. It's not an efficient process."

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