Please pardon our dust! The SEA website and membership database are under construction until mid-May due to some exciting changes that are in progress. Until then, we will not be issuing any new member identification numbers. Please email any membership inquiries to Also, SEA Headquarters has a new address. Going forward, please send all USPS correspondence to 7918 Jones Branch Drive, Suite 300, McLean, VA 22102. We look forward to unveiling a brand new SEA website in mid-May which will greatly enhance your membership experience. Stay tuned and thank you for your patience!

Is Telework the Problem or is Management the Problem?

There's a potential explanation for why some supervisors might face challenges getting results from their teleworking employees that I haven't seen discussed much in the debates over telework: a lack of clear unit and organizational goals.  The evidence for this comes from a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) report, representing a comprehensive cross-governmental perspective on telework.

As part of their research, the MSPB broke down employees' responses to a series of questions by whether or not those employees' supervisors supported telework or not, to see if there are differences between employees who have supportive supervisors and those who don't (page 36):

Performance Management Statement

Supervisors Support Telework

Supervisors Don't Support Telework

Do you know what is expected of you on the job?

Yes - 94%

Yes - 81%

Are you held accountable for achieving the results expected of you?

Yes - 94%

Yes - 77%

Do you have individual performance goals that clearly define the results you are expected to achieve?

Yes - 86%

Yes - 66%

Are your performance goals clearly linked to organizational or work unit goals?

Yes - 84%

Yes - 63%

Are appropriate, objective measures or metrics used to evaluate your achievement of your performance goals?

Yes - 72%

Yes - 42%

In every case, the employees with supervisors who don't support telework are less likely to say that they know what they should be doing or how their work is connected to everything else in their work unit, including the overall mission and goals of their organization.  The report itself says that this gap between the two groups shows how important good individual performance management is to making telework possible and successful.

Another way to look at this gap is that it's being caused not by individual performance goals failing to be set, communicated, and tracked properly, but by organizational performance goals failing to be set, communicated, and tracked properly.  Maybe it has nothing to do with the supervisor or the employee.  Maybe no one in that unit or organization really knows what they are supposed to be accomplishing or how their work fits together!  If that's true, then a supervisory aversion to telework is a tactic for coping with strategic uncertainty.  There may be cases where an organizational cultural hostility to telework should be a sign that they need improved strategic planning and communications from the top.  That would be a benefit to the mission and a different way to make actionable the standard advice for leaders to demonstrate support for telework.

All of this is important for current federal executives to understand so that they can properly diagnose resistance to telework among their supervisors.  A flexible working environment has numerous benefits which can only be realized if supervisors support it.  It’s also useful to know that resistance to telework might be a “canary in the coalmine” telling executives that their strategic direction isn’t clear in the minds of their workforce.  It’s also important for today’s emerging leaders, who are tomorrow’s executives, to understand the factors influencing how telework is perceived so they know how to create the kind of culture that allows for a flexible working environment.  Workplace flexibilities are something younger Feds want and being an emerging leader means being willing to step up and help make those desires a reality.

Joseph Maltby serves on the National Leadership Team for Young Government Leaders, an association of young leaders across the federal government seeking to educate, inspire, and transform, as well as serve as a coordinated voice, for current and future leaders in government.  Joseph works as an internal consultant for a federal agency.

Ten Considerations For Civi Service Modernization

Summary: The Senior Executives Association (SEA) and the Hoover Institution hosted three Civil Service Modernization Dialogues in the summer and fall of 2018 that had a goal of developing a consensus around general themes and concepts that a diverse group of organizations could support. Those Dialogues were organized around three general themes:

  • Civil Service Workforce Modernization
  • Civil Service Administrative Modernization
  • Civil Service Regulatory Modernization
Read More

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