There is no better time than this week, the congressionally designated Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), to spread a message of praise, reenergize the workforce and perhaps even issue a challenge to forge ahead to make government work better on behalf of the American people.
It is critically important for you as a federal leader to let your employees know that they are valued and that their work is important.
Some leaders have recently spoken out, although their words have not always received the kind of attention that they deserve.
President Obama, for example, wrote a memo to federal workers last month after the budget deal kept the government functioning, thanking them for their patience and professionalism during a very trying time. “You do your jobs without complaint or much recognition. But it is men and women like you who help make America all it is, by responding to the needs of our people, and keeping our country safe and secure,” Obama wrote.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week praised Defense Department civilian employees during a leadership forum—comments that are well worth repeating.
"We wouldn't be anywhere without the great civil service workforce that we have," said Mullen. He added that their "dedication and patriotism equals that of those of us in uniform."
Other federal leaders also praised their employees. National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes said, “National Weather Service employees are the epitome of not just good government, but great government. These men and women are dedicated to protecting lives and property around the clock—even when threatened by extreme conditions themselves.”
Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams noted that “Peace Corps staff in the U.S. and overseas contribute their skills, creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment to service in a meaningful way both at home and abroad.”
Some leaders are going beyond kind words.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Secretary Eric Shinseki, Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould and other senior officials around the country will shake hands with employees as they come to work today, a simple but very nice gesture. There also will be an event today with speakers to kick off the week that will be broadcast live throughout the VA, and a “Thank an Employee Day” on Thursday.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) will kick off PSRW at an ice cream social hosted by Administrator Karen Mills, Deputy Administrator Marie Johns and Chief of Staff Ana Ma. The ice cream social, they said, is a “sweet” way to thank the staff for all the hard work they do on behalf of America’s small businesses. The SBA also will select an Employee of the Day every day this week.
The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) will be holding a number of appreciation events including a Public Service Recognition Reception with their former chairman from the mid-1980s, Barbara Mahone. Mahone will speak to employees about how her experiences as a public servant shaped her more than 30-year executive leadership career in the private sector.
FLRA Chairman Carol Waller Pope, who has served the FLRA as a public servant for more than 30 years, noted that “PSRW provides an opportunity to acknowledge all FLRA employees—managers and staff alike—who are deeply committed to the FLRA’s mission and rebuilding efforts, and to whom the FLRA can credit its recent extraordinary improvements in agency-wide performance and employee morale.”
The State Department will also be showing appreciation for its employees during the week, including holding their annual homecoming for civil service and foreign service retirees, on May 6.
And at Federal Executive Boards across the country from Boston to Atlanta to Seattle, there will be awards ceremonies and other events held to honor and recognize federal employees.
These are just some examples of ways leaders are choosing to say thank you, ideas that should be expanded more fully across the government during PSRW and throughout the year to motivate workers, and to let them know that their hard work is appreciated.
Twelve Cabinet secretaries and two agency leaders signed an open letter, sending a positive message that better reflects reality than some of the headlines we read each day.
“This week serves as a time to honor public servants—many of them our friends and neighbors—and to reflect on the benefits they provide the American people, such as disease prevention, public safety and security, education, transportation, veterans’ care, and much more,” they said.
“Each and every day, we have the pleasure of witnessing firsthand the remarkable accomplishments performed by public servants at all levels of government. We are proud to serve with you and thank you for all you do,” they said.
As federal managers, it is important that you too spread this message.
How is your agency celebrating Public Service Recognition Week? What are you doing to thank and recognize your employees during this week? Please share your stories and post your ideas below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And check back on Wednesday, when I speak with the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, John Berry. You can also receive a reminder by following us on Twitter @RPublicService.