AFGE EPA Council Responds to Report on Management Challenges

A recent independent assessment of management challenges facing the Environmental Protection Agency highlights several issues that are especially important to the AFGE Council 238, which represents about 8,500 EPA employees. 

The Office of the Inspector General’s fiscal 2015 EPA Management Challenges Report, issued May 28, focused on six management challenges facing the agency. Two of these challenges are especially important to employees. The IG recommended that EPA improve its workload analysis to accomplish its mission efficiently and effectively, and that EPA improve management oversight to combat fraud and abuse and take prompt action against employees found culpable. 

The issue regarding a workload analysis is nothing new, Council President Karen S. Kellen said. In March 2010, the GAO reported it had raised the workload analysis issue to EPA senior officials via reports issued in 2001, 2005, 2008 and 2009. The EPA Inspector General cited the lack of a workload analysis as a Management Challenge in 2013, 2014, and again this year. 

“AFGE has been urging EPA to conduct a workload analysis for years to no avail,” Kellen said. “A workforce analysis is never more critical in light of EPA’s recent efforts to bring new employees on board after conducting agency-wide buy outs and early outs over the last two years.” 

AFGE recently wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing its dismay regarding the manner in which this hiring process is being conducted. 

The challenge relating to EPA’s management practices is of utmost concern to EPA’s unions.  The report refers to a “‘culture of complacency’ among some supervisors regarding time and attendance controls, employee computer usage, real property management, and taking prompt action against employees.” 

While the report stresses that managers must emphasize the importance of ethical conduct throughout the agency, it fails to point out the underlying cause of this so-called “management challenge”: the double standard applied to managers who violate rules vs. rank and file employees who step over the line. 

“EPA does not have a ‘culture of complacency’ within its management ranks; it has a ‘culture of complicity.’” Kellen said.  “EPA will never correct this culture of entitlement until it holds its own managers accountable for their behavior.” 

EPA managers, on the whole, do not have a problem enforcing strict controls on staff level employees. As the official representative of approximately 8,500 bargaining unit employees within EPA, AFGE has seen firsthand the agency’s willingness to hold the rank and file accountable for management’s misdeeds. 

Even more devastating to the morale of employees are managers who are serial bullies or allow bullying to occur within their groups. These managers wreak havoc on employees; they scream and yell, use vulgar language, intimidate and harass. Despite many complaints, EPA management nearly always supports the manager over the employee. Even when management finally accepts that there is a problem with a manager, rather than address the problem as they would a staff level employee, they hire consultants and coaches to help them become a better manager.  

“AFGE has a message for senior management at EPA: If a person exhibits the same behavior for 10 to 15 years, all the coaching the in world will not change them,” Kellen said. “EPA needs to end this ‘culture of complicity’ unilaterally and hold its managers accountable for their inappropriate behavior.”


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