Do agencies keep poor performers on the job?

Patricia Niehaus, national president, Federal Managers Association

wfedstaff | June 3, 2015 3:11 pm

There’s a perception that it’s almost impossible to be fired from a government job. But is it true?

In a recent blog post in the Washington Post, Tom Fox wrote that “deadwood” exists in both public and private sectors. However, the perception that federal government doesn’t get rid of poor performers isn’t entirely true.

“Supervisors fire between 8,000 and 10,000 federal employees every year because of poor performance or misconduct, according to government data,” Fox wrote.

Patricia Niehaus, national president of the Federal Managers Association, joined the DorobekINSIDER to discuss the myth vs. reality of federal agencies keeping poor performers on the job.


Niehaus said as part of civil service regulations, an agency is required to give a poor performer the opportunity to improve, Niehaus said. If there isn’t improvement, a manager has the option to move that person to a different position with less responsibility or into another area.

“Really, firing is the last resort,” Niehaus said.

However, poor performers can stay on the job when managers aren’t doing theirs.

“Supervisors who are not trained to do that kind of communication or unwilling to do that kind of communication foster that myth by letting that poor performer stay rather than dealing with them,” Niehaus said.

Niehaus said a lot of agencies have computer training tools for managers. Also, when confronted with a poor performer, managers can always go to their hiring specialist.