Managing through the debt ceiling debate

John Palguta, vice president for policy, Partnership for Public Service

wfedstaff | June 4, 2015 8:37 am

The debate over the debt ceiling is raising questions about what federal managers should be doing to prepare for possible cutbacks or shutdowns at their agencies. The Treasury Department says just two weeks remain before the government runs out of money to pay for some of its obligations. John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service joined the Federal Drive with advice for managers dealing with uncertainty at their office. They’re not the only ones, Palguta said.

“This is really unprecedented,” Palguta. “We haven’t been through this situation before, so we really don’t have answers.”

It’s important to note to staff, Palguta said, that the negotiations around raising the debt ceiling are different from those that deal with appropriations.

“We have a situation where government’s run out of money, and we’ve logged up the national credit card,” Palguta said.


But there are three things federal managers can and should do:

  • Listen to employees’ concerns, “even if you don’t have answers,” Palguta said. “You just let them know you don’t have information,” but hear out their concerns.
  • Let them know what you don’t know – “Which is a lot,” Palguta said.
  • Commit to sharing information with employees when you have it. ” ‘I’ll let you know what I know, when I know it.” and follow through on it,” Palguta said.

Also, federal employees should make sure to relay information and employees’ concern to their bosses and further up the chain of command.

“Not a good situation,” Palguta said. “Bottom line is, we gotta hope that common sense does prevail, and the debt ceiling is raised.”