This week’s question comes from an aspiring federal leader who’s feeling constrained by his agency environment. Please continue sharing your questions, ideas and suggestions by commenting below or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a new hire dealing with favoritism in the work place. Trying to compete with the favored employee has resulted in little to no actual work and little chance for career advancement. I have tried to contact upper management (via email) about the situation without response, and my immediate manager is powerless to change the current situation. Should I change departments or stick it out? – New federal employee (GS-7), U.S. Department of Defense
As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to stay in a position for at least a couple of years at the beginning of your federal career. For that reason, I suggest hanging in there a little longer and trying some new strategies.
I appreciate that you have tried to reach out to senior leadership directly. However, busy federal executives–particularly those who have been preoccupied with budget cuts and possible furloughs–may have overlooked your emails, especially if your immediate manager is not raising the issue with them directly.
I suggest finding a successful, experienced and savvy person in your office who can help you navigate the terrain more effectively. Specifically, you will want someone who can help you understand the following:
· Assigning work: Sometimes what may appear as favoritism in an office may really be good staffing on the part of your manager. Gaining some context from a more experienced team member will help you understand whether favoritism is really at play or whether there are other factors going into the decision making.
· Becoming a high-performer: Every agency has its own unique culture and characteristics. Talking with someone more experienced will help you gain insight into how others have succeeded in your office. This insight will help you set some professional development goals.
· Building credibility: Once you determine what it takes to be a high-performer in the office, consider where you most need to work on building your skills and credibility. Be honest with yourself and your trusted colleague, and really focus your professional development goals around the areas requiring the most attention.
· Making the case: As you work to build your skills and credibility, think about speaking with your supervisor or other leaders within your team about the possibility of new opportunities based on what you bring to the table. Again, that experienced, savvy employee can help you figure out the right people to contact, the best approach to making your case, and the most resonant issues to bring up in conversation around work assignments.
I invite others who’ve dealt with similar situations to offer their advice. As I noted before, feel free to simply post your ideas online or send an email to email@example.com.