Friday, April 11, 2008

Staffing the FS and Knowing Who You Work With

The FS does have some of the best and brightest, but being smart doesn't automatically make you a good boss. Diplopundit had a recent piece about staffing the Foreign Service and they suggest allowing officers to have a minor cone (career track) so that folks could get more management experience before they become Deputy Chiefs of Mission (DCMs). You can read Diplopundit's entire piece here. She comments:

"One DCM told me that his managerial experience prior to becoming number #2 at a U.S. mission was 15 years earlier when he was a junior officer supervising local employees at a Consular Section and one prior post where he was political counselor directly supervising his deputy. I’m not saying that folks who came up the ranks like this could not do the job, but I’m saying that the learning curve is pretty steep when you leap from supervising a small office to supervising section chiefs and managing interagency issues."

Of course, a steep learning curve is not the only issue with FS managers and it is a problem across cones. The Way I See It has some more thoughts on the new bidding process and how HR's new "transparency" can be used to decide where to bid and perhaps more importantly, where NOT to bid. I think all of us in the FS have had some of the same bosses as TWIST. You can read The Way I See It's entire post here, but I have quoted some of the funny parts below:

Knowing Who You Work With

...When I first joined the foreign service somebody told me that who you work for matters much more than where you work or what you work on. In my first tour I worked for and with an outstanding team of people. It was truly an incredible experience, and I could not imagine why anyone would have complaints about working for the Department. It was at this point that someone advised me to find a good supervisor and follow them around. I thought that advice was a little bit absurd. Boy was I ignorant.

In subsequent tours I learned not only is it incredibly important to find good supervisors, but that it is even more important to avoid bad ones like the plague. It began with horror stories from my colleagues, and was all very abstract until I lived that own personal hell myself. Bad supervisors and co-workers can make even paradise seem like a living hell.

So as I travel through the foreign service, I make it my own personal mission to plant in the ears of people I like the names of the worst people I've ever worked for. There's the guy who only likes male employees who kiss his ass incessantly, and who will bend every rule in the book to ensure that his little proteges work for him, even if they aren't at all qualified for the jobs. He also has arbitrary rules about EERs he writes, which seem to boil down to "women should never be recommended for promotion." Then there's the woman who actually has no experience for the job she's in, doesn't really understand what it requires, but really likes to make sure her people are "doing things!" Also fun is the screamer...All communication with staff should be done above a certain decibel level and should include only really obscene words. My own personal favorite is the single boss who lives to work. He likes to have most of his meetings in the evenings and on weekends, and must take notetakers along with him. Working all the time lends the mission a sense of urgency that makes us all feel much more important. Isn't that fun?

This is all very subjective though, and the number of people I can warn is really limited (unless I take to running through the FSI cafeteria shouting a warning like the town-crier. Actually, that might not be a bad idea for one or two of the above...)

1 comment:

Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here: