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Lessons on FCC Morale

bptw_1824x800

This week the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report was issued as it has been every year since the Bush 43 administration fostered the start of this program in 2003 and made surveys mandatory for Executive Branch agencies. FCC participation was optional and it dodged the survey until the 2009 survey - based on 2008 data collection during the Martin chairmanship. Now the purpose of FCC is not to amuse its staff and keep them happy. But enlightened management knows that you can get more done if everyone on the team understands goals and works in the same direction. Indeed, if they don't why have 1500-2000 people sitting around.

During my career at FCC Chmn. Michael Powell seemed to be the best leader at motivating the staff. Chmn. Kevin Martin, his immediate successor, the worst. Both Republicans. Most FCC chairs in recent history had essentially no management experience. They were generally Hill staffers or lawyers in private practice. Chmn. Wheeler despite other flaws, had at least directed 2 trade associations with a few hundred employees. Chmn. Powell did not have this direct experience, but he grew up in the family of a senior military officer and no doubt learned from his father how to be a leader of those in your unit. He also had been a junior military officer before his career was wrecked by a near fatal training accident. Having been a junior officer myself, I know that leadership training is a key part of preparation for commissioning. I doubt if many other FCC chairs have had comparable training.

So let's look at this year's results:

FCC scores bptw 16

FCC had a dismal score during the Martin chairmanship as morale plummeted. This was particularly striking after the enlightened workplace leadership of Chmn. Powell. While Chmn. Genachowski was controversial for some of his policies, he at least made a wonderful turnaround in workplace morale at FCC.

bptw table 16
However, morale has been drifting down in the most recent 3 surveys and is now below government wide averages. More troubling is what is shown in the table at the left. This compared FCC with other regulatory commissions of comparable size. NLRB has worse morale than FCC; but FERC, FTC, NRC, and EEOC have higher morale than FCC. Thus in this narrow peer group of multimember regulatory commissions FCC is near the bottom.

Wheeler-D-R-votes-1
So I hope that the Transition Team in planning the new FCC leadership focuses on the positive accomplishments of Chmn. Powell in FCC administration and leadership and eschews the management style of Chmn. Martin, his successor. This is an independent issue of the 8th Floor harmony illustrated at left. Now partisanship in FCC is not totally independent of partisanship on the Hill so blaming Chmn. Wheeler entirely for this partisanship growth in FCC voting is not really fair. FCC is not really isolated from Congress especially when 3 of the commissioners are former Hill staffers and a fourth is the daughter of a key House member. Hill staffers make great commissioners, but there is a downside of having a near monoculture of such former staffers on the Commission.

So let's hope in the next few years we can have both good staff morale at FCC and better 8th Floor harmony too.
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