Want to work for the Federal Government?
Last night I was cleaning out some of my files in my home office and I came across a file I titled “Government Bullsh*t”.
I opened it up and began to toss out some of the paperwork I had accumulated during my 10 years there. I had information on the mentoring program that I helped start for the office and ended up running after a couple years. But I kept that stuff as it might be useful going forward. The mentoring program was a wonderful experience for me, working with motivated staff in my area (the first couple years) and then as the prgram expanded to be an office-wide, working with key staff from all program areas. That first group flew up through the ranks in the government (not easy getting through all that red tape) and getting to know everyone was what made this experience so worthwhile.
I also found a bunch of documents on the conference I helped set up with a manager for our region. We organized a 3 day conference about 2 hours north of the city and had some giveaways and guest speakers, sponsors… It was a wonderful experience. Key staff came from all over Southern Toronto to share best practices and talk about successes.
Then I came across a nasty letter that I recieved from my former Team Leader who was trying to convince our section manager that I was “in direct negligance of my duties and should be disciplined immediately”. I read the letter and it all came back to me…
In the area I worked, there were 4 levels you could get to within the group.
Entry level with the ability to leave the office and travel to visit clients
Resource officer – where you help the staff with technical interpretation of the tax act, help them resolve issues, coach, mentor, provide back-up team leader duties, and manage really complex crappy accounts
In all my time at the government I never received a substantial temporary promotion (just days mainly, and a week here and there but only once I started complaining). That meant the only way I would be moving up in the organization was on my own merit, so by writing and passing all the exams and interviews once an need was identified and a posting made. After 5 years and much frustration, I found myself at the Resource Officer level and with all my extra duties, I was VERY busy each and every day. I had multiple inventories, and mentoring, projects, school (CGA Courses) and kids, so I was really exhausted at the end of the day.
After getting flack one day by my “acting” team leader, for the handling on one account – in light of the fact that I was managing 7 inventories in addition to my duties – I asked to be moved to a developmental team to assist in the developing of future resource staff. This move was not met with great applause as the very senior, by the book, technical gurus were offended with me being there and the group that were training were surprised that I would want to be working with them to help them develop.
Frankly, I was fed up with being denied promotion and thought this fresh start would assist me in finally moving forward.
During the first week of the program, the trainees were taught how to properly summarize accounts and asked to submit their information and their timesheet to the team leader by that Friday.
I joined this team on the Wednesday, in the afternoon, as I was winding up some of my duties (the rest of the account followed me to this unit) and I was not present at any of the meetings in which this Team Leader identifed his requirements.
On the following Monday morning he emailed me asking for the information that was due on the Friday. I responded that I was not aware of this requirement and within a few hours he had all the information on his desk.
He followed up with the letter that I found in my file…
He asked me to come with him to meet the Section Manager to discuss how “disappointing I was to him, in just the first week of the program”.
In front of this manager, he explained how he outlined the program, the requirements, the importance of learning this information and the fact that I was being disrectful by making him follow up. He felt I should be reprimanded. He openly questioned my reasoning for being in the program, the lack of my technical knowledge and the fact that I should be knocked back a level if I cannot even submit time sheets on time.
I sat still looking at the manager quite stunned and very offended. I could feel my skin getting hot, as I was burning inside listening to this TL act completely inappropriately.
One he finished, she looked at me and asked for my response.
I told her I was here voluntarily to assist the staff and that, after joining the team midway through the week, this team leader did not bring me up to speed on any requirements and that after hearing from the staff this was required, that on my own, I started wotking on it. In addition to the fact that I was already at that level – for 2 years – and this Team Leader was the chairperson on the hiring board that I moved up on so he should have known this. I also mentioned that we are talking about timesheets, for g-d sakes, and that I was chosen, that year, as the employee of the year, for the entire region – covering 14,000 employees for all my efforts at the job, through volunteer work, and in personal development through courses I had taken and for my technical work on key accounts. I think he picked a fight with the wrong person…
She was livid.
She apologized to me and asked me to leave.
I stood outside the door and listened to her rip him out. She told him that there was no way I could go from being chosen the regions “MVP” by senior management to being “Incompetant and should be disciplined” in a mere 6 months.
I knew from that moment that this team leader was going to be a thorn in my side, and boy was I right. Every opportunity he had to overlook me or praise someone else, he did. Right up to my last day in this program – I was leaving my 9 months of paternity leave – I overheard him commenting to my colleague on how he didn’t think anyone was going to finish all the requirements for this program within the one year, let alone me who had only been with the group for 6 months.
Not one minute after those words left his lips did I peek my head into his cubicle and ask him to sign off on my last requirement for the program.
I was finished. The program itself was great, the team leader, really needed to develop his managerial skills. He was very disappointing and petty.
What got me the most was not even one day after I had left to begin my leave I received an email from a colleague thanking me for all the help I had given them (I kept that email too) and telling me that this Team Leader was trashing me to the group saying that I didn’t do any of the work – none of it was on time – and that they should move on and forget I was even there.
If there was one thing I learned while working in the Federal government it was that if you wanted to move ahead in the organization, you had to keep your nose clean, do as you are told and do not challenge the old boys network. I did none of the above and still managed to move up and eventually out.
While it made for a tough battle day-in-day-out, I worked on my accounting and eventually got my MBA before I left (and no they did not pay for it), but the remaining legacy of my time there is not the programs I created and ran to develop and support staff, or the committees I was asked to join and help out with, or the processes I suggested to improve employee morale, but rather the message that a couple managers chose to spin about my work ethic being poor, or my lack of attention to detail.
Not too long ago, I decided to ask for access to records kept in the government which included my name and I got to select from a variety of people, and of the 900 pages I received, there were a good 200 pages in which conversations between several managers occurred for the purpose of getting the story straight on how they were going to avoid having to promote me and what they were going to tell the staff.
The effort they went to to smear me looks to be far greater than the amount of time they spent doing things like managing their teams and improving morale.
I’m just glad I have it in writing…
I’m tired of having to “set the record straight”.
Can’t wait to see what else is in that folder. :)