Performance Management:

How Well Is the Government Dealing With Poor Performers?

GGD-91-7: Published: Oct 2, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 2, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how the federal government identified and dealt with employees whose performance was less than fully successful.

GAO found that: (1) federal agencies rated 5.7 percent of the estimated 1.57 million federal employees as poor performers; (2) 62 to 70 percent of the poor performers either improved their performance to fully successful, voluntarily agreed to vacate their positions, or had performance actions proposed against them; (3) 76 percent of supervisors indicated a willingness to deal with poor performers; (4) supervisors experienced problems in dealing with General Schedule (GS) and Wage Grade (WG) poor performers because they were limited by law in the actions they could take to deal with those individuals; (5) government procedures for handling poor performers were generally similar to those in nonfederal organizations, although several nonfederal organizations provided more supervisory options; (6) 11 percent of supervisors were not identifying poor performers, and 8 percent of supervisors with poor performers did not assist them; (7) approximately half of the supervisors experienced difficulty in implementing the process for dealing with poor performers; (8) those supervisors who did not identify poor performers believed that the process was too time-consuming, wanted to avoid confrontation, or believed that management support was lacking; (9) due to the subjective nature of identifying and dealing with poor performers, the current legislative and regulatory framework for dealing with poor performers placed heavy emphasis on protecting employees against unfair treatment; and (10) supervisors needed training and technical assistance to assist them in identifying and dealing with poor performers.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congressional action is improbable. However, OPM action will assist supervisors.

    Matter: Congress should consider ways to ease the difficulties supervisors encounter when dealing with GS and WG employees who have performed at the minimally successful level for lengthy periods. A number of options were provided.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM issued, in April 1991, FPM 432 which emphasized the need for upper management support, supervisory training, and ongoing communication between supervisors and employees. In May 1991, the Director, OPM, sent a memo to heads of executive departments and agencies asking them to determine the effectiveness of their performance management programs and to develop ideas for improving performance.

    Recommendation: The Director, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), should stress the need for a greater commitment and more visible involvement from top managers in identifying and dealing with poor performers.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM has reorganized its training function to create a separate Office of Executive and Management Policy. This office focuses on policy issues relating to the development of supervisors and is part of the OPM effort to provide supervisors with the skills necessary to deal with poor performers. OPM has also offered a course entitled "Performance Based Actions" which extensively addresses problems.

    Recommendation: OPM should assist federal agencies in demonstrating top management commitment by ensuring that all agencies provide periodic training and the necessary technical assistance to adequately prepare managers and supervisors to identify and deal with poor performers.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM has established three interagency task forces to enhance agency oversight capabilities and stated that agencies can use assessment tools devised by OPM to develop their own evaluation process.

    Recommendation: OPM should require agencies to establish methods and procedures for overseeing how well poor performers are being identified and dealt with.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management


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