Does happiness trickle down?

A friend’s living room features a sign which says ” If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!” He works for the government. She is a teacher. Normally a stickler for grammar.

Although Don and I have never discussed the meaning of the sign, or why it is posted in such a prominent spot — eye-level above the bar — even the most dense male gets it. And knows it is a universal truth.

By the same token, if your boss isn’t happy, odds are you will feel his or her pain. At least during working hours. Sometimes on weekends and holidays too. Sometimes for years.

Career members of the Senior Executive Service are in place when their political masters arrive and generally they outlast SES politicals and Schedule Cs. While the political appointees are there, however, they can do a lot of good. Or a lot of damage.


The primary firewall between career employees and ambitious, sometimes blindly partisan political appointees, is supposed to be the SES. Career people who know the rules, know how things work (by the book and off the books), and have often survived several different administrations.

Some members of Congress have criticized the career SES because many, if not most, of its members have only worked for one agency. In one assignment. They believe the SES was set up to ensure mobility, and to keep executives from going strong or becoming wedded to one agency, one program or one way of doing things.

Yesterday’s column, “Shuffling The SES Deck“, was about the pros and cons of mobility as a way of life. It prompted this response from one reader:

… Your article could easily be retitled “Kissing A– To Get To The Top.” Before retiring, I worked for nearly 20 years in D.C. for an agency with many SES. Some very good managers. However problems do happen when you inbreed too long. I saw a few average GS 15s get promoted to SES status because of many years of ‘yes sir, right away sir, three bags full’ instead of acting as a manager of a program and disagreeing with the head shed when their actions might be detrimental to that program.

Second, I never saw a poor SES removed. That would be admitting a mistake from the top.

I agree with the woman you cited in the article that many good managers avoided SES because the money wasn’t worth the hassle All that said, I fully believe that SES should rotate among (similar) agencies to expand their capabilities. And maybe weed out the ‘Peter Principle’ SESers back to GS 15s when they fail. Oh I forgot they never fail.

So how are things at the top of the career pyramid? We’ll ask that question of Carol Bonosaro on today’s Your Turn radio show. She’s a former government executive who is now president of the Senior Executives Association.

Pay freeze, again?

So what’s Congress next going to do to (as opposed to for) federal workers and retirees? We’ll put that question to Capitol Hill-watchers Stephen Losey and Sean Reilly. Both are senior writers for the Federal Times. We’ll also talk about buyouts, downsizing in the Postal Service and threats to the retirement system that could impact current employees.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


By Jack Moore

Las Vegas is known as Sin City, so you’d think almost anything goes. But according to Mental_Floss, the city banned Hula Hoops and megaphones in certain parts of the city.


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