Managing Government Employees: How to Motivate Your People, Deal with Difficult Issues, and Achieve Tangible Results
By Stewart Liff
Stewart Liff offers some useful “nuts and bolts” guidance to anyone supervising employees in the private or public sector. His 32-year career, which includes service at both the management and executive levels in the Department of Defense, General Service Administration, Federal Energy Administration, and Veterans Health Administration, make Managing Government Employees an extraordinarily credible endeavor.
In the second chapter of the book, Liff offers guiding principles for managing employees in government, but these principles are readily applicable in the private sector as well as life in general, making them a “must-read” for those contemplating entering management. The chapter also serves as an excellent refresher for seasoned managers. Liff drives home some fundamental but often overlooked principles. He notes that most people want to do a good job and belong to a winning organization. He advises managers to treat people with respect and always apply the Golden Rule.
Liff openly takes issue with Jack Welch’s strategy of firing the bottom 10 percent of an organization’s workforce each year and contends that taking the same sort of action in government would be costly, time-consuming, and difficult. He also states that from a philosophical point of view, he sees no need to remove such a significant percentage of employees from any organization. Instead, Liff urges management to take steps to work with and improve the performance of the employees so they will no longer be a part of the bottom 10 percent.
In the third chapter of Managing Government Employees, Liff elaborates on the benefits and values of teaching employees about the big picture and the political climate within an organization. He urges managers to provide ongoing feedback and “manage by walking around” (MBWA). He also encourages managers to ask their employees for advice. Again emphasizing the Golden Rule, Liff reminds managers of the basic importance of saying “thank you” and of being aware of people’s sensitivities.
In the remainder of the book, Liff delves into dealing with difficult employees, rewards and recognition, attendance management, labor relations, and equal employment opportunity. While the book is written for government managers his comments and insights are useful to all managers, particularly first line managers, everywhere.