Performance? Who knew!

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Performance? Who knew!

I received an email noti­fi­ca­tion that a Depart­ment of Defense Civil­ian Reduc­tion in Force (RIF) was com­ing. I almost deleted the email. RIFs are noth­ing new, and they typ­i­cally go like this:

  • Some older employ­ees use it as a chance to retire early
  • Most employ­ees that have been around greater than 2 years con­tinue to stay
  • Young employ­ees or ones with exten­sively doc­u­mented issues get let go

The prob­lem is that RIFs con­sider tenure sta­tus and vet­eran sta­tus over per­for­mance. This makes it extremely hard to fire some­one. The per­for­mance por­tion has to be absolutely hor­ren­dous, and most employ­ees are smart enough to do the bare min­i­mum so that as a super­vi­sor, you strug­gle to find any­thing neg­a­tive to document.

Even when there are prob­lems, they take for­ever to solve. Out in Bahrain, I had a civil­ian employee that reg­u­larly sent angry emails to our entire com­mand, in many cases includ­ing the Admi­ral. But her pre­vi­ous boss had writ­ten glow­ing per­for­mance reviews, so when the com­mand wanted to fire her, she had a case against them. Her new boss (who I had gone to school with) painfully doc­u­mented her per­for­mance issues and out­bursts for a year. Dur­ing her per­for­mance review, she received such a low score that the HR office called us and asked if we had made a mis­take. She lost a $10K bonus and was removed a few weeks later.

Had she been a Google or Ama­zon employee, I doubt she would have lasted 4 weeks.

So imag­ine my sur­prise when I read these paragraphs:

In order to com­ply with the law, the depart­ment has repri­or­i­tized the “order of reten­tion” as imple­mented by Office of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment in government-​wide reg­u­la­tions, by plac­ing per­for­mance as the pri­mary reten­tion fac­tor. This is a sub­stan­tial change for DoD from exist­ing, government-​wide pro­vi­sions. The cur­rent, government-​wide RIF reten­tion fac­tors are: tenure, veteran’s pref­er­ence, length of ser­vice, and per­for­mance, in descend­ing order.

Under the new pro­ce­dures, employ­ees shall be ranked on a reten­tion reg­is­ter based on peri­ods of assessed per­for­mance, fol­lowed by the reten­tion fac­tors of: per­for­mance rat­ing of record, tenure group, per­for­mance aver­age score, veteran’s pref­er­ence, and DoD Ser­vice Com­pu­ta­tion Date– RIF (DoD SCD-​RIF).

Per­for­mance? That could be a game changer. The memo gives you an idea of how they will score peo­ple, but just the fact that we’re going to use per­for­mance as the dri­ving met­ric is a huge step in the right direction.


This post rep­re­sents the views of the author and not those of the Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of the Navy or any other gov­ern­ment agency.

Except the actual memo…that’s totally real DoD pol­icy. No fake news here.

Feel free to check out my blog. And…hit up Da Tip Jar, because you KNOW the NY Post was never going to tell you about civil­ian RIFs.

I received an email notification that a Department of Defense Civilian Reduction in Force (RIF) was coming.  I almost deleted the email.  RIFs are nothing new, and they typically go like this:

  • Some older employees use it as a chance to retire early
  • Most employees that have been around greater than 2 years continue to stay
  • Young employees or ones with extensively documented issues get let go

The problem is that RIFs consider tenure status and veteran status over performance.  This makes it extremely hard to fire someone.  The performance portion has to be absolutely horrendous, and most employees are smart enough to do the bare minimum so that as a supervisor, you struggle to find anything negative to document.

Even when there are problems, they take forever to solve.  Out in Bahrain, I had a civilian employee that regularly sent angry emails to our entire command, in many cases including the Admiral.  But her previous boss had written glowing performance reviews, so when the command wanted to fire her, she had a case against them.  Her new boss (who I had gone to school with) painfully documented her performance issues and outbursts for a year.  During her performance review, she received such a low score that the HR office called us and asked if we had made a mistake.  She lost a $10K bonus and was removed a few weeks later.

Had she been a Google or Amazon employee, I doubt she would have lasted 4 weeks.

So imagine my surprise when I read these paragraphs:

In order to comply with the law, the department has reprioritized the “order of retention” as implemented by Office of Personnel Management in government-wide regulations, by placing performance as the primary retention factor.  This is a substantial change for DoD from existing, government-wide provisions.  The current, government-wide RIF retention factors are:  tenure, veteran’s preference, length of service, and performance, in descending order.

Under the new procedures, employees shall be ranked on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance, followed by the retention factors of:  performance rating of record, tenure group, performance average score, veteran’s preference, and DoD Service Computation Date- RIF (DoD SCD-RIF).

Performance?  That could be a game changer.  The memo gives you an idea of how they will score people, but just the fact that we’re going to use performance as the driving metric is a huge step in the right direction.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy or any other government agency. 

Except the actual memo…that’s totally real DoD policy.  No fake news here.

Feel free to check out my blog.  And…hit up Da Tip Jar, because you KNOW the NY Post was never going to tell you about civilian RIFs.