Entitlement Syndrome: Teaching Examples

“Entitlement Syndrome” refers to a belief by employees, usually senior employees, that their position entitles them to certain perks. A 2012 Washington Post article on allegations against three Army general officers provides multiple examples for use in training, including this:

On Feb. 14 he sent the following e-mail to an aide: “Might you be able to stop by a florist and pick up a small bouquet of spring flowers for me? Not extravagant at all — just a small not very expensive bouquet.” The aide offered to get it and asked where the general would like the flowers delivered. Ward responded: “Can you have in the limo pls — trunk. Tnx”

Examples like these may have much more teaching value than examples like the high-ranking EPA official who in effect stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by claiming to be an undercover CIA operative. Few employees would ever dream of that type of fraud, and those few are unlikely to be dissuaded by an ethics briefing. On the other hand, many high ranking officials–ones we otherwise would consider honest and capable–succumb to the temptation to take advantage of abusing subordinates.

More Online Training from GSA

Government Executive reports that GSA is increasing its use of online training for employees government-wide, to cover “conference etiquette,” among other things:

The agency has teamed up with the online learning platform Blackboard to provide Web-based training to federal employees across government. A manual and in-person process for registering for and attending classes is moving online, allowing feds to register, pay for and attend classes via Internet. The Blackboard platform also provides tools such as discussion boards to collaborate, Concklin said.

GSA plans to launch its first online course, “Travel Basics,” through Blackboard in January, Concklin said. Another course – “How to Attend a Conference” – will go live in February or March, she added.

“Thanks to the big mistake we had in the last year, GSA is using that as an opportunity to say, ‘here’s what we did wrong,’ and helping other federal agencies to learn from our mistakes,” Concklin said. “So ‘How to Attend a Conference’ is one course that’s going to be piggybacked off that theory.”

The new online platform also is enabling GSA to offer training in a more creative, game-like setting. “There is a difference in the way generations like to be trained, but one thing we know for sure is that the old click-style of PowerPoint training isn’t always the most effective, especially when it comes to training employees on things like travel,” Concklin said. “Doing it in a more integrated, creative way is more engaging.”

Most online training I’ve seen has been marginal at best. It allows you to “check the box” and say “We had training on Topic X,” but it is rarely as effective as in person alternatives. I look forward to seeing if GSA’s efforts are more effective.

Chief Learning Officers?

Will new “Chief Learning Officers” improve federal training? Government Executive weighs in:

Before the CLO position was created, agencies would go out and purchase the training and learning vehicles they needed for their staff without any single strategic vision. The lack of coordination often led to program duplication, which sucked needed funding out of shrinking budgets. Not only that, but lack of clear goals left agencies without a single vision of future workforce and learning needs.

Any solution to the challenges ahead will need to start with CLOs preparing the federal workforce with the tools they need to adapt. The Government Business Council, the research arm of the Government Executive, was compelled to contribute to the conversation around this unique challenge and completed an extensive study on the character of chief learning officers in the federal government. According to the study of over 400 federal managers, 32 percent of them indicated that their agency does not even have a CLO. Of the agencies that do have a CLO, only 30 percent reported that their CLO encourages a culture of learning.

IEC Journal 10th Anniversary

IEC Journal celebrates its 10th anniversary today.  The Interagency Ethics Counsel website has provided many benefits to the federal ethics community over the years, including distributing high quality material for trainers. 

The community’s attitude toward supporting IEC Journal, reminds me of the movie Before Midnight, which some critics considered the best of 2013. The heroine, Celine, rants that all men believe in fairies. They think fairies magically clean the clothes, cook the meals, wash the dishes, etc.

No, all those things don’t happen by magic, and neither does IEC Journal. Keep them in mind, send them article tips and share useful material that comes your way. Nothing wrong with taking, but give back when you can.