Handling Furlough Fallout
In the wake of the recent government shutdown and subsequent strains on the federal community, we have had many FEDS members contact us with concerns about how to handle current or upcoming furloughs. FEDS recognizes the potential negative implications surrounding a government shutdown for all agency employees and stand by you. Below, we have outlined possible areas in which the furlough could lead to adverse employment consequences and tips on how to avoid these situations until the shutdown is resolved.
You may have employees whose natural response to being furloughed is to knowingly or subconsciously lower their quality of work or “act out” in an attempt to “get back” at the agency or leadership for temporarily decreasing the workforce, leaving many without pay and creating a heavier workload for those excepted. However, it is important to remind them that federal employees are largely all in this together. The shutdown was the result of a political impasse between the President and Congress rather than a decision by agency officials; it affects many individuals throughout the federal government. This is something that you as managers should keep in mind both as your subordinates react to the furlough and as you face frustrations yourselves. Be sure to exhibit proper conduct and continue to provide leadership during this trying time.
Decreased manpower at certain jobs will almost certainly lead to longer hours and increased complaints by impatient members of the public. This type of atmosphere can lower the morale of your workforce and could leave you dealing with more performance-based and/or misconduct matters than usual. You might expect a correlating increase in EEO, harassment, or hostile work environment complaints against you in response. You can help avoid this by paying increased attention to your interactions with your subordinates and the public, promoting a positive work environment, and doing your best to make sure furlough-related tensions do not affect performance.
Unfortunately, we cannot say how long this shutdown will last or if essential employees such as yourself will become furloughed. If you believe you are vulnerable to being furloughed, take time now to determine the impact a furlough will have on your ability to meet your financial obligations and come up with a plan to meet those obligations. This is necessary because getting into financial trouble (i.e., unpaid bills and debts, collections, bankruptcy proceedings, etc.) could have employment consequences, such as security clearance and/or disciplinary implications. Be mindful that this includes paying off government-issued credit cards, even if reimbursement has been delayed. Contact your agency for specific guidance on how to avoid penalization if you are not able to meet these payments on your own.
If you do receive notice of furlough, you may consider seeking employment outside of your federal position in order to replace lost income. If you choose to take this path, remember that all regulations regarding outside employment are still in place and must be adhered to. Be sure to consult your agency’s guidelines before pursuing an outside job.
For additional advice or questions regarding FEDS professional liability insurance, visit fedsprotection.com or call us at 866-955-FEDS.
Posted in Manager Matters