When/if your agency decides it must downsize, again, would you rather it do so by attrition, offering early retirements or go straight into a Reduction In Force? Early-outs generally get few takers unless accompanied by a buyout. And those are few and far between lately.
Buyouts, ($25,000 before deductions), which were relatively plentiful a couple of years back, seem to have moved into the background. Sort of the option of last resort.
Reductions In Force, or RIFs, can be disruptive and sloppy. There have been small RIFs in a few agencies, but the last big round came during the Clinton administration. Even so, buyouts outnumbered RIFs big time.
Although RIF rules have been modified somewhat over the years, retention registers still must be established. Last-hired, first-fired rules still apply, and many agency managers consider it the option of last resort.
A long-time fed watcher said she’s been hearing talk of RIFs “for more than a year.” When and if they come, she said, “customer-oriented agencies” like the Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Administraton and Social Security would most likely take the heaviest hits. The RIF or Not To RIF issue may “depend on how they spread out their resources … a RIF is complex … you must deal with laws and regulations.” She said some agencies decided some time back “to go with attrition” — not filling vacancies as they occur. Attrition is more of a worry now, she feels, because of the “slow and steady erosion of morale” as offices are asked to do the same or a larger amount of work with fewer people.
If agencies take the attrition vs. RIF route, she said she thinks that will lead to more vacancies, “more services not being done. Morale is already low and it’s going to get worse…you don’t have people to do the jobs.” She said the attrition model wreaks havoc with succession planning. “Who is there waiting to be trained and who will do the training?”
Things could get better, she said, when final regulations on phased retirement are issued. She said she hopes that will be in the next couple of months.
Meantime, don’t be too hard on your agency managers if they appear to be withholding information on buyouts, RIFs, attrition or early retirement. Why? Because the people at top, in many cases, don’t know what the drill will be when the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
Bottom line: You may be dancing in the dark, but you have lots of company!
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