Best Places to Work 2017: BLM Improves Rankings

Thanks to Andy’s closer look I have updated this post, which originally said that the BLM had pulled ahead of the FS, but actually the FS has not been posted yet.

I always compare it to the BLM, which has a similar mission, and was 60.1 this year. BLM went up 4.3 points last year. I wonder if they did something workforce-wise, or ??? Many of the individual categories went up, as you can see in this chart, so it seems like something real is going on… ideas?

We’ll have to wait and how the FS did.

16 thoughts on “Best Places to Work 2017: BLM Improves Rankings”

  1. Related to this, you just gotta love the Department of Interior’s Secretary Zinke tooting his own horn!

    The Secretary sent out a press release titled, “Interior Jumps into the Top Ten Best Places to Work.”

    Wow! Top 10!

    Oh, wait, they are in 9th place out of a total of 18 agencies. So, in other words they are in the Top 10 while also being one place from being in the bottom half!

    Like so many things with this Administration, and Secretary Ryan Zinke, it’s always about style over substance. Check out this great “tell” at the end of big feature on Zinke from Outside Magazine:

    As Zinke and I casted over the ice-cold water, I noticed something funny about his setup. He kept struggling to strip line out of the bottom of the reel. For a while, I thought he was simply having trouble concentrating on our conversation while casting. No, there was something wrong, and when I asked him to stand for a portrait, I finally saw what the problem was. He had rigged his reel backward, so that the line was coming out of the top of the reel. Every so often when he went to strip line out, he would grasp air where the line should’ve been.

    Seems like an inconsequential thing, but in Montana, it’s everything.

      • Montana is backwards and didn’t want to elect the more qualified female candidate. Well, atleast he hasn’t body slammed any one- yet.

          • Zinke also did try and run for governor in Montana in 2012 and didn’t even make it out of the primary. Also, over 200,000 people in Montana voted against Zinke when he ran for Congress last time. That race was against Denise Juneau. Just pointing out the fact that Denise is a Native American woman who’s openly gay. None of those facts bother me at all, but there is certainly plenty of racism against Native Americans and homophobia in Montana.

            The guy (Gianforte) who replaced Zinke in the U.S. House literally body slammed and assaulted a reporter the night before the special election. Gianforte plead guilty to that, but he was still elected our congressperson. I’m not sure that anything “is too outre” for some Montana voters, especially if you have that magic “R” after your name. Heck, we’ll see if anything “is too outre” for the voters of Alabama.

            And speaking of “too outre” should I paste below some of the statements made about women by the President of the United States? Defending politicians as perhaps not being to “outre” based on winning an (s)election doesn’t really count for too much in my mind.

            • I was just responding to the hyperbole in the Outside writers statement “Seems like an inconsequential thing, but in Montana, it’s everything.”

              And because you mentioned women, I don’t fish, like many women (25% of anglers are women based on 2006 FWS numbers). So I wouldn’t be putting on any lines frontwise, backward, or sideways, nor would I even be out there with the writer. In his attempt to be snarky (the current American sport?) the author implied that real Montanans know how to rig fishing lines or whatever.

              That’s one of the problems with snark; people get so absorbed in the delight of their writing, they don’t always think about who else gets spattered with the snark spray.

              • With some much real hyperbole in America today, especially related to politics, I find it odd that you consider this to be an example of such.

                “Seems like an inconsequential thing, but in Montana, it’s everything.”

                I mean, nobody by Ryan Zinke himself made Zinke out to be the great outdoorsman and the protector of Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy. He has claimed to be an avid fly-fisher, so this has nothing to do with people like yourself, or myself, who also don’t know how to fly fish, or correctly rig a fly-fishing line.

                I think the implication from the author was that real Montanans who fly fish actually know how to fly fish. But whatever really. No snark or hyperbole coming from Secretary Zinke or President Trump, so might as well go after this author.

  2. I am not surprised that the BLM ranked higher than the FS – for years when I worked in a place where there was a lot of BLM land (and a lot of FS) there was a rather large one-way outflux from the FS to the BLM – and after folks transferred they would tell us how great it was – mostly because they had a promotion and did not have the insane workload that they had in the Forest Service because the BLM staffing was more appropriate for the work load.

    • That’s interesting and might be a good place for the FS to look for ideas on how to improve. I bet there are many interesting exit interviews.. if folks are still doing those..

    • BLM staffing is actually less than forest service. it has fewer employees per acre than the forest service. for example, a “PD” forester in the BLM does the work of the following people in the forest service: forestry program lead (budget, hiring, admin), sale administration, pre-sale forester, silviculturist, forest technician, NEPA writing and implementation. so where as the forest service would have a staff of at minimum 3 people on a given district with a program (likely more) the PD foresters do the work of all of those positions. a PD forester is a forester outside of oregon. BLM forestry programs in oregon are more similar to the forest service with regards to staffing.

      • I just switched from the BLM to the Forest Circus, Department of Aggravation. I took a lateral position, GS-0486-11, and I assure you 100% that my job with the FS circus is like doing 5 jobs with the BLM. While working for the BLM I was “a” wildlife biologist (terrestrial). With the FS as a wildlife biologist I also do the duties for a fish biologist, botanist, and a weeds specialist, and in addition, I am also a supervisor, which I did not supervise anyone with BLM. My supervisor, a GS-12 at BLM, supervised ALL the technicians and specialists and did not do NEPA. My current job duties with the FS would be equivalent to a GS-12 with the BLM, at a minimum.

        I have to write many more BA/BEs and NEPA for all four of those resources for the FS. While working in an interagency (BLM/FS) office, I learned it is a well known fact that the BLM is much better, with reasonable workloads per person. I just didn’t realize how much of a difference it is. My boss at the BLM came from the FS, and she loves the BLM much more than the FS. She’s a GS-12 and I currently have more duties than she does!

        I’m incredibly stressed at work, and if I state I’m having problems keeping up to my FS boss, I get yelled at, because of the targets she has to meet. I have to work for free because I’m not offered comp time and I cannot get my duties completed in a 40 week and I’m maxed on credit time, It’s asinine!

        Everything in the FS is way more complicated; budgeting, timekeeping, FACTS, WIT, NRM, the O drive troubles, and now Pinyon, on and on! Literally, I can’t be efficient at any one thing because I have to shift gears daily and re-learn it all because it’s so complicated.

        Comparing the two agencies by acres is not a good formula, at all. I managed 10 times more acres for BLM than I do with FS, and my job with BLM was way easier to do quality work and to keep up.

        Please, please fill the positions for the specific duties that require pertinent knowledge of them, specifically. That’s the least that can be done since the Districts were combined!

        Another thing, BLM HR is far better structured than FS HR!

        The reason people think and say for the lack of job satisfaction with the FS is due to funding differences. BLM maybe has more appropriated dollars than FS. Thus hiring less people to do the jobs, without decreasing the duties or workload that need to be performed by policy and law. And that’s why working for the FS is so aggravating. It’s impossible for me to get a good evaluation with the FS because I struggle to meet my targets. Conversely, with the BLM I always received a performance award and was able to work on new wildlife projects that benefited the agency.

        Bottom line, the BLM treats their employees better because they can, they are funded better, and probably hire better supervisors too because of that. Good people don’t want to stay with the FS when they know things are better elsewhere, like the BLM or BOR where they pay better for the duties performed.

        I want to love working for the FS, but it’s hard knowing there’s a better work environment in several other agencies.

  3. The Forest Service didn’t rank lower than BLM; it didn’t rank at all. For reasons unexplained, the Forest Service appears to have been omitted from the 2017 report altogether.

    • Andy is right.. I looked at the link and it said 2017 index, but after he pointed that out, I found this on the site that says the Forest Service is not in yet.

      “The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, produced by the Partnership for Public Service since 2003, are based almost entirely on data from the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.  In late October 2017, OPM informed the Partnership that it was reviewing its data privacy policy and would only provide information on agencies and work units with 300 or more survey respondents as opposed to 50 respondents. As a result of this decision, 21 small agencies and 165 subcomponents are excluded from the rankings released on Dec. 6, 2017. On December 5, OPM provided data for the missing agencies. The new data will be analyzed and revised rankings for small agencies and subcomponents will be released in early 2018.

      Below is the list of agencies and subcomponents that were featured in the 2016 Best Places to Work rankings. Employee and workplace data for the organizations highlighted in yellow are not yet available for 2017 public release because of OPM’s decision.”

      The odd thing about this is that 50 respondents doesn’t seem like enough to even bother to calculate anything out of 25,000 or so (couldn’t find number easily, got this one here)

      In retrospect, I should have been more suspicious of the missing categories for 2017. So stay tuned!

  4. And then there’s this Greenwire article:

    Survey strips bare a fearful culture

    Michael Doyle, E&E News reporter
    Published: Friday, December 15, 2017

    The Interior Department’s stunning new employee survey reveals depths of cynicism, distrust and other systemic woes that go beyond the allegedly widespread harassment and discrimination.

    Interior workers aren’t reporting alleged misbehavior because they doubt it will do any good, the survey shows. Many fear being tagged as troublemakers if they complain. Employees distrust the reporting process and worry their careers will be damaged if they resort to it.

    The three related revelations, out of many, sum up the management challenges facing the still short-handed Interior officials who insist they will change the department’s culture (Greenwire, Dec. 14).

    Only one-quarter of the Interior employees who say they experienced gender-based harassment or discrimination over the past year said they filed a written or oral complaint. When asked why not, 41.7 percent explained they thought they “would be labeled as a troublemaker.”

    Even more, 46.5 percent, say they didn’t report the alleged gender-based harassment or discrimination because they “did not think anything would be done.”

    The findings are included within more than 7,000 pages of detailed agency-by-agency survey results released yesterday. They substantiate the firsthand accounts of seeming indifference and bureaucratic defensiveness already on the public record.

    “Significant problems are swept under the rug, or simply tolerated, in the service of maintaining positive appearances,” former National Park Service worker Laura Williams advised the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last year.

    Commissioned and begun during the Obama administration, the newly released survey found that 35 percent of Interior workers responding between Jan. 9 and March 5 reported being harassed during the prior year. That translates to more than 21,000 workers overall, if the survey sample accurately reflects departmentwide experience.

    A total of 28,203 employees responded to the survey, a 44 percent response rate. Federal Consulting Group and the CFI Group, which conducted the survey, consider the results a valid representation of the department.

    Age-related harassment was the most commonly reported problem, noted by 20.5 percent of employees. Gender-based harassment was the second most commonly reported, with 16.5 percent of the workers surveyed saying they had experienced it.

    Years in the making, the problems identified in the survey could defy unraveling by even the most dedicated political leaders. Complicating the Trump administration’s efforts is a bit of a leadership vacuum, as the White House has yet to clear nominees for the Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey and Fish and Wildlife Service.

    “It’s up to all levels of management to ensure that our employees have a healthy work environment that empowers them to be productive and effective for the American people,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said. “And if managers are the problem, we will deal with them.”

    In a memo sent yesterday, Bernhardt directed all bureau and office heads to develop and submit a formal action plan within 45 days to address their specific survey results. Those plans will include a schedule for accomplishing those actions.

    “All indications are that there is a long history of suppression and retaliation against people who reported sexual harassment,” Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva said in an email today. “And now that we have a many-times accused sexual harasser sitting in the Oval Office, I’m concerned that Interior employees are even less willing to report their claims.”

    Grijalva, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, added that the panel, “which has not held a single hearing on the topic, needs to step up.”

    The extent of the alleged harassment differs across Interior’s various agencies, as does, to some degree, the faith each agency’s employees show in the system.

    Of U.S. Geological Survey employees who say they experienced gender-based harassment, 18.1 percent filed a complaint, for instance, compared with 27.3 percent at the Park Service. Their reasons, though, sounded generally similar (Greenwire, Oct. 13).

    At USGS, 28.7 percent of those who didn’t report on the alleged harassment explained they “did not think the process would be fair.” Among similarly situated Park Service workers, 32.2 percent cited the same reason.

    “It is my opinion that the organizational routines of the National Park Service management have evolved to prioritize making everything look good, at all costs,” Williams, the former Grand Canyon National Park employee, said in a written statement to the House Oversight panel.

    The costs can be severe, some employees believe.

    One-third of the Park Service employees who didn’t complain of the alleged harassment they experienced said they thought it might hurt their career. Similarly bleak assessments were offered by employees at BLM, the Bureau of Reclamation and other Interior agencies.

    “Employees, male and female, are still afraid to speak out about injustices or wrongdoings they encounter,” NPS employee Rachel Brady told the House Oversight panel.


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