Foolproof Way to Lose Your Job

When a brand-new civil servant is sworn in, his or her bosses (and sometimes colleagues) have 365 days to make/break them before they become permanent federal government employees.

For the first year, at least, it doesn’t pay to be late a lot, call in sick on Mondays or Fridays, or show up at work wearing your wench or fool costume from the Renaissance Faire.

Not foolproof

Since the 2-year (at least) pay freeze took effect for more than a million white collar workers, getting promoted has become even more important to feds who want to get ahead financially. Which is why promotion-minded feds recently dodged a bullet that would have required them to survive a 2-year probationary period after each promotion.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has approved legislation increasing the current one-year probationary period for new federal hires to 24 months. The probationary period is the time when most civil servants who are going to be fired at some point in there careers are actually shown the door. After the probationary period is over, critics say, it is difficult in the extreme to get separate somebody.


Extending the probationary period another year is the idea of Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fl.) Despite being a freshman, Ross has shown a surprising (and to federal unions a sometimes unsettling) knowledge of the federal service, how it works and who works for it.

Bill-watchers say the Federal Managers Association, which supported the extended probationary period for new hires, played a key role in insuring the bill would not cover people already on the job (who passed their initial probationary period) when they moved up the promotion ladder. As it now stands, the pending 2-year rule would apply only to future hires.

The probation period in private sector companies that have one is typically much shorter (anywhere from 30 days to six months) than 365-day long free fire zone new feds must survive.

A long-time, now-retired manager said “I would guess that during my career 90 to 95 percent of the people who were let go were terminated during the probationary period. ” He said that as a new civil servant he thought it was a “long time to walk that tightrope” but when he got into management he wished he had a longer period of time to assess new employees performance.

Pensions For Life—Plus

Yesterday’s column about federal fringe benefits as a key part of your estate prompted this comment from a reader/listener who knows his civil war facts:

    “Federal pensions are a funny thing. They could be worth a lot more than you think when you take your spouse into account. In 2003, Gertrude Janeway, the last Union Civil War widow, died. At the time, she was getting a $70 a month pension from her husband’s Civil War service. He was 81 and she was 18 when they got married.” John Ward, Fairfax, Va.

Now that’s a survivor benefit!!!!

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Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

Three little words from the Nearly Useless Factoid: Cupcake flavored vodka.


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