A Management Concern:

How To Deal With the Nonproductive Federal Employee

FPCD-78-71: Published: Aug 10, 1978. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1978.

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Concerns have been expressed that many government employees are not productive and that nothing can be done about it. Federal agencies are empowered to fire, suspend, or demote employees in accordance with established laws, regulations, and procedures.

The Civil Service Commissioners, top agency officials, leaders of federal employee unions, and federal employees hold widely divergent views on the difficulty of removing nonproductive personnel. Most agree that a federal job is not ensured for a lifetime and that discharging an employee should occur only if the person does not respond to counseling, has skill deficiencies which are not correctable, and cannot be suitably reassigned. Shortcomings in the federal personnel system which contribute to difficulty in firing unsuitable employees are: (1) a rating system that gives about 95 percent of employees the same satisfactory rating in spite of wide variations in performance; (2) inadequate or nonexistent performance standards and measurement systems; (3) lack of incentives for managers and supervisors to deal with problem employees; (4) lack of probationary periods for tenured employees promoted to supervisory positions; and (5) eligibility for within-grade pay increases based on longevity. Also, agencies are deterred from removing employees because of perceptions of difficulties, fear of reprisals, and the complexity of removal procedures. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 recommends changes which should simplify the identification and, if necessary, the removal of nonproductive employees while adequately protecting their rights.

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  • employment icon, source: GAO

    Priority Open Recommendations:

    Department of Labor
    GAO-19-395SP: Published: Apr 3, 2019. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 2019.

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