- McConnell Campaign Manager Quits Amid Scandal
- Obama Weighs Delay in Action on Immigration
- Judge Strikes Down Texas Abortion Law
- Neck-and-Neck in Arkansas
- Judge Dismisses McDaniel Challenge
Posts in "The Boss"
July 31, 2014
U.S. Capitol employees are reporting more claims of discrimination and harassment — a 20 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report released Thursday by the Office of Compliance.
In fiscal 2013, the OOC tallied 164 claims of workplace discrimination and/or harassment from employees working at the Capitol, anyone from a chief of staff to a Capitol Police officer. The 2012 figure was 134 allegations, but the increase is believed to be from more staffers coming forward, not because workplace conditions have changed.
The most common complaints were of discrimination or harassment based on race, followed by sex, gender or pregnancy, then disabilities or age. There were small numbers of allegations based on national origin and religion.
An example of such an allegation could be someone not receiving a promotion because of their gender or age.
“The OOC has prioritized outreach and education this year, so our hope is that the rise in the number of employees contacting our office with these issues [harassment and discrimination] is a byproduct of a more informed workforce,” said Scott Mulligan, deputy executive director of the Office of Compliance.
Claims of discrimination and/or harassment on Capitol Hill have remained relatively constant since 2009, according to the report. Employees who file requests for counseling often allege multiple types of discrimination, though not all employees who receive counseling decide to file formal complaints.
June 18, 2014
For new moms returning to work after maternity leave, having an up-front conversation with the boss can be difficult. Especially when it’s about breast-feeding.
Capitol Hill has stellar lactation facilities, but even that cannot always compete with the awkward conversation with the boss about why you can’t take that 3 p.m. meeting. New research out Wednesday and provided to Roll Call from Bravado Designs reports 25 percent of working mothers are not able to discuss back-to-work breast-feeding plans with their employer prior to taking maternity leave, and only 38 percent found that their employer was extremely supportive of their plan.
While these numbers are not specific to Capitol Hill — or even Washington, D.C. — the findings illustrate not all women feel comfortable making their family needs a priority at work. This is particularly intriguing for a place such as the Hill, where staffers are often expected to put their boss’ needs above their own and are less accustomed to taking time for themselves.
Hill staffers who spoke to Roll Call about pumping at work cited the need to block off time in their calendars each day for pumping, though many worked during that time. Every effort is made to allow staffers to remain plugged in — the lactation rooms have phones and TVs for watching the floor or committee hearings — yet without that initial conversation or support from the boss, staffers who feel uncomfortable are more likely to opt out of breastfeeding when returning to work.
Capitol Hill staffers are accustomed to hard work and dedication; many work on the Hill because they care about public service and want to give back to their communities. But doing so shouldn’t be at the expense of their families or themselves.
The White House Summit on Working Families is on June 23, and I’ll follow up with some of the findings reported there.
This conversation is just beginning.
More from Hill Navigator on working families:
- So You Want to Have a Baby? Capitol Hill Maternity Leave Policies
- The Other Back Room: Breastfeeding on Capitol Hill
- Adventures in Babysitting: Getting in to the House Daycare
June 16, 2014
My colleague Kate Ackley reports on the 35 staffers for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who will soon be out of a job. On July 31, Cantor will go from a possible up-and-coming speaker to a rank-and-file member of Congress, until he vacates the seat at the end of the 113th Congress.
[Cantor chief of staff Steve] Stombres assured [staffers] he would do everything possible to help them land new jobs. So did Cantor the next day, when he met privately with his staff in the Capitol, according to people familiar with the session. “We’re not going to rest until everybody on this team has found a good place to land,” says Stombres, who plans to leave the Hill.
Though Cantor’s defeat was a shock and it left his staff in turmoil, such things have happened many times on Capitol Hill, where most jobs are secure only until the next election. And unlike factory workers forced to scrimp when their plant shuts down, congressional aides of the caliber found in leadership offices — who like Cantor himself typically have many opportunities to pick from — could easily end up with a significant pay raise.
It’s not just Cantor staffers who are looking for jobs after an election loss. Five other members of Congress have been defeated in primaries and/or their race for other office: Ralph M. Hall, R-Texas; Paul Broun, R-Ga.; Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.; Allyson Y. Schwartz, D-Pa.; and Steve Stockman, R-Texas — and election season is just getting started.
Ackley’s takeaway: Capitol Hill is accustomed to such musical chairs and having someone like Cantor or Stombres take a personal interest in a staffer’s job search is likely to yield success — for all parties involved. Pete Rouse, chief of staff to former Sen. Tom Daschle dedicated himself to finding jobs for the displaced staffers after the South Dakota Democrat’s defeat in 2004. While doing so, Rouse accepted a position as chief of staff to a freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. Rouse went on to serve as a top White House adviser and co-chairman of Obama’s presidential transition team. In December, he left the White House for the private sector, which he describes as, “less adrenaline, more money.”
For Cantor staffers ruminating on their changed future, take heart. You, like Rouse, could have bigger and better things waiting at the next turn. Good luck.
- Losing an election is rough, but it happens to us all. Keep your chin up and read the Loser’s Guide to the Job Hunt.
- If you hadn’t started networking before, now is a good time.
- When all is said and done, keep it classy. Even if this is your first job in politics, it probably isn’t your last.
June 11, 2014
Hill Navigator has long extolled the circuitous fortunes of power in Washington, D.C. — sometimes you have it, sometimes you lose it.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss Tuesday was a stunner, even for those who cover politics closely.
And while his political future may be in question, there are many staffers wondering what might come next. Hill Navigator has some advice for you — hang in there — it happens to the best of us. You, too, will be on the winning side of an election once more. In the meantime, here is a quick list of Hill Navigator’s recommended reading for a quick bounce back.
- Losing an election is rough, but it happens to us all. Keep your chin up and read the Loser’s Guide to the Job Hunt.
- If you hadn’t started networking before, now is a good time.
- Midterms are coming. There are opportunities. And if you do go on the campaign trail, keep it mind it is very different from your congressional office.
- An election loss means someone else’s gain. To all those celebrating, whatever the reasons may be, keep in mind that your dream job could also be short lived.
- When all is said and done, keep it classy. Even if this is your first job in politics, it probably isn’t your last.
May 20, 2014
It seems to come so easily to many politicians: the hearty handshake, the half-arm hug, asking after family members then listening with oh-so-intrigued eyes as the stories roll in. But what about those for whom small talk and glad-handing isn’t a natural part of their modus operandi? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. Do you have any advice for someone incredibly shy who now all of a sudden has to represent their office at evening receptions as part of their job? It would be nice to get over the shyness for reasons of personal career advancement, as well. Being in a room full of strangers is more daunting than it looks.
A. Being in a room full of strangers can be daunting to anyone; even the most extroverted can stammer through talking points or have trouble feigning interest during the umpteenth round of small talk. Full story
May 7, 2014
Maybe it’s the spring sunshine, or the abundant cherry blossoms, but Hill Navigator has noticed an uptick in questioners who have happily landed in their dream jobs and are asking what to do next. Make more contacts? Stay in touch with old ones? How to say thank you?
(Short answers: Yes, yes and a thank-you card.)
So this column is directed toward you, happy staffers. Here are some suggestions on what you can do next.
What? Is that some sort of typo? Surely Hill Navigator’s advice credentials must be fading already. Why on earth should a happy staffer interview for a job somewhere else?
Because it is best to interview when you are happy in your job. You can come to an interview with confidence and the ability to view the job objectively, rather than with the hangdog look of “please hire me” that tends to accompany desperate staffers who need to leave their job, posthaste.
The New York Times recently wrote that employers would rather hire people who are currently employed, rather than those looking for work. Hill Navigator argues this a step further and believes offices are more inclined to hire people who are happy in their current jobs, rather than those who are unhappy.
Here is why (and brace yourself for some armchair psychology). Happy staffers ARE all alike. If you’re the content, eager to work hard, friendly co-worker who organizes the March Madness pool and refills the coffee pot, then who WOULDN’T want to work with you? Happy offices want happy employees. Even the most savvy of us can have trouble hiding our true feelings if we’re dissatisfied in our job, and during the interview process this could inadvertently hurt your chances.
Still not sure you should be interviewing when you’re happy enough as is? Hill Navigator has a few more reasons for you to ponder.
1) It’s good to get out there. Maybe more offices are hoping to hire staffers with campaign experience, or maybe the salary range for your position has gone up. The best information is gleaned firsthand, and by taking the occasional interview you will know what your position is worth and what other skills you can brush up on.
2) Things change — sometimes quickly. If the ground shifts — a boss resigns, a CEO leaves or a company gets bought out and leaves the old staff behind — you don’t want to be caught without a lure in the water. Winds (and fortunes) can change overnight — just ask Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., or Donald Sterling. Even if you’re happy where you are, know that situations change, for better and for worse, and you’d be wise to be prepared.
3) The better opportunity might be there. You might be happy in your job, but there might be something more suited to you. Maybe it’s a better location with an easier commute, maybe it’s a salary bump, or more (or less) travel. You won’t know unless you take the interview.
But take this advice to heart: Take an interview when it’s relevant to you, but if you know from the start the position is an ill fit, you can use your happy splendor of your current job to turn it down. Offices usually have a way of knowing when their star employees are interviewing elsewhere. It’s fine to keep them on their toes, but too many “afternoon doctor’s appointments” can give the wrong impression too.
And whatever you do, follow up with a thank-you note. Happy employee that you are, you probably knew that already.
May 1, 2014
My colleague Nathan Gonzales has a must-read out today for any Capitol Hill or campaign flack looking to set up interviews for their boss/candidate: How to Ruin Your Interview With Stu Rothenberg.
Over the course of the past 25 years, Stu has garnered somewhat of a reputation of being a “hard” interview. And some party strategists and consultants probably have more colorful adjectives than that. Those are also probably the same folks who prepare their candidates for the alleged onslaught they will face when stepping into The Rothenberg Political Report offices.
But I’ll be honest with you, Stu is more bark than bite, and if candidates come in and act and talk like normal human beings, the vast majority come out on the other side unscathed. But there are a few ways that a candidate can virtually guarantee a less than ideal outcome.
Hill Navigator agrees on all of Gonzales’ points, but wants to add one more à la Barry Sanders: Act like you’ve been there before. Because to Stu, you (and your story) probably have. Stu has been in this business long enough to see it all: your fundraising numbers, your campaign team, your home-state newspaper endorsements — it’s not news to him. And he’s impervious to spin, so what can you do?
Play the role of the experienced candidate. The one who hired a credible, experienced campaign team and understands the nuances of poll numbers. It may be less interesting or gossip-worthy, but those are the candidates more likely to reap the rewards come Election Day.
And while you’re at it, take a few of Nathan’s lessons to heart. Particularly the one about the student council nostalgia.
April 23, 2014
Who said there was no drama in government work? How about when staffer health care benefits are coming under fire from lawmakers? Seems odd that the men and women trusted to run the government want to yank insurance coverage from their own staff, who largely make approximately 20 percent less than the competitive wages for their work. It may not be an episode of “Scandal,” but it’s frightening just the same.
Thirty-eight Republican members of Congress are backing Sen. Ron Johnson’s lawsuit against the Obama administration over employee contributions to staff health care.
The lawmakers, including Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and John McCain, R-Ariz., on Monday filed an amicus brief in Wisconsin federal court, supporting Johnson’s challenge to the Office of Personnel Management rule on the issue. In response to a March 17 Justice Department request to dismiss the lawsuit, the GOP members argue that Johnson’s case deserves to be heard.
“The unlawful executive action at issue in this case is not an isolated incident,” the 35-page brief states. “Rather, it is part of an ongoing campaign by the Executive Branch to rewrite the Affordable Care Act (‘ACA’) on a wholesale basis.”
Hill Navigator was a Hill staffer once and recognizes that there are sacrifices to be made on the job: long hours, less sleep, plenty of weekends (and vacations) dominated by vote schedules and press releases. But health insurance shouldn’t be one of them.
Staffers are there to ensure members of Congress can more effectively do their jobs: through constituent service, research, communication and the day-to-day tasks that come with being an elected representative. Staffers are there to help Congress function; they are the hardworking people who literally keep the lights on in the buildings. Members turning their ire on staffers seems undeserved and ill-advised. The emperor could soon be wearing no clothes.
Congress will certainly pull its share of political stunts; it’s a disappointment that threatening to take away benefits from staffers has now become one of them.
April 8, 2014
We all make mistakes.
And when staffers make mistakes — like being caught on camera necking with your boss — the fallout is particularly scintillating.
Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., is weathering such a scandal (which broke after a video surfaced showing him kissing one of his employees) in predicable ways. He’s said he’s sorry. He’s skipped votes to avoid the inevitable press gaggle. And he’s dug in his heels and announced he has no plans to resign anytime soon.
“There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness,” McAllister said in the statement Monday. “I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether your a husband, a father, or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed.”
But Hill Navigator is not here to handle crisis communications or run the latest poll numbers for Louisiana’s 5th District. This is a staffer advice column, after all. So, in honor of the latest staffer fail, here is a staffer fallout guide to help navigate the rough waters ahead.
1) Protect the boss. Whatever you do and whomever you do it with, remember that you are the staffer and your boss’s reputation is yours to protect. Hill Navigator doesn’t condone illegal activities, but barring that, your job is to foresee such situations and cleverly plan to avoid them. Affairs with the boss are generally a bad idea, but if you insist on having one, be savvy enough to pick a time and location without a security camera. Particularly if your boss has political opponents nipping at his heels.
2) Don’t take it out on your colleagues. Sure, they’re miffed that your year-end bonus was bigger (and now they know why) but don’t take your anguish out on them. If your co-workers are standing by you, then apologize for your role and tell them how much their support means to you. Because you will need it.
3) If they turn on you, run. Sometimes even the best of staffers have to fall on their swords. Scooter Libby was convicted of a felony and disbarred. Andrew Young falsely claimed paternity. Kurt Bardella was put on the cover of The New York Times Magazine and not by choice. If your team has decided you are taking the blame — or they’ve hung you out to dry — make a quick and graceful exit while the political maelstrom subsides. There will be some kindhearted (or opportunity-seeking) people who reach out to you. Once the time is right, they can help you with your next steps.
4) Cable news always moves on. There will be more mistakes, and more tearful apologies. The political pundits will find new fodder. Headlines change. And when they do, the staffer can rise again. Libby’s sentence was commuted. Young got a book deal. Even Bardella was hired back by Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Calif. You, too, can bounce back. Congress is nothing if not for its staffers. And a mistake learned keenly once is likely not to be repeated again.
April 7, 2014
Everyone has bad days. The Metro breaks down (in a tunnel). Coffee spills (on your keyboard). And errors are made (that the boss catches). So how do you bounce back when you know you’ve erred? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. I’ve been on the Hill for almost six years. The first few years were smooth sailing. My boss and I had a decent (albeit not close) relationship, but he was pleased with me.
Two years ago, I made a mistake. I don’t think it was a major one, but he thought so. There was zero fallout from it, but he was very upset.
Since that time, my boss scrutinizes everything I say and do. I can’t have a conversation without my boss interrupting me with a million questions about information I haven’t given yet. He’s constantly challenging and second guessing me in nearly every discussion — even on the most mundane details. When I need to talk to him, I need multiple sources of proof before he’ll even look at me. My writing, which used to come back with minor edits, is now terrible, and everything I write must be rewritten. (He once returned something to me that the communications director wrote. He said it was terrible and wanted it redone. The communications director came over and claimed ownership. He looked shocked at the two of us and stomped off angrily. The item was never approved.)
Almost every conversation with my boss will come back to a hostile debate on whether or not I’m competent or if I care about my job. He has declared it open season on me.
If my boss can’t even trust me to know the location of a briefing I planned (and that did happen), I realize I can no longer work in this office. That’s a shame because I’ve dedicated so much to my job, but I’m literally exhausted. I’m also hurt that my own boss cannot grant me the latitude and flexibility he has given others.
In the meantime, how do I get through this very difficult situation? I fear I won’t get a good recommendation no matter what I do now, and I feel held hostage by this office. I cannot trust him or anyone else.
A. Yikes. Hill Navigator feels your pain. Even if your error was egregious — which you say it wasn’t — people should be able to make mistakes and move on. If the mistake was reprehensible, than the boss should have let you go, rather than stay there and wither under his thumb.
It’s time to start looking for another office.
Here is why: Your boss is not forgiving your past mistakes, his statement of forgiveness belies his actions. You feel “held hostage” and “cannot trust him or anyone else.” Neither of those bodes well for a good office environment where you can learn and grow professionally.
As for the recommendation, find someone you work well with in the office and ask them to be a reference. If you’ve truly given your best effort despite previous mistakes, that shows a dedicated work ethic and perseverance, which a future employer can appreciate. If the entire office is in cahoots with the unforgiving boss, see if a former co-worker can serve as the reference. If that still turns up nothing, then find people elsewhere who can vouch for your good work. It’s helpful to have a reference from a current job, but not necessary.
And whatever you do, leave on the best terms possible. Even if everyone is happy to see you go, continue to keep your head down and do good work. This way, at least you’ll give them a reason to miss you.
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March 12, 2014
Capitol Hill got you down? Maybe you didn’t get the press secretary position you were so qualified for. Maybe your merit raise hardly amounted to a cost-of-living adjustment? Or perhaps the boss that loved you is retiring, or caught in some embarrassing scandal, and you’re done listening to people scream at you over the telephone.
Whatever it is, it’s not your day. Or week. Or year.
Hill Navigator has some advice for you, world-weary staffer. Hang in there. All careers have ups and downs. Even Barack Obama lost an election once. But he rebounded in due time, as you will. Hill Navigator has some tips to help you weather the storm, all the while maintaining your cool, calm facade.
Do good work: All the time. Even if you are in a job you hate, do the job as well as you can. All of your co-workers are witnesses to your awesomeness; if they see you sulking or playing Candy Crush, that’s what they’ll remember. These people are the core of your soon-to-be-expanding network, so make sure they think you’re outstanding. Remember that being a stellar employee is easy to do in your dream job, but how you operate in the dire circumstances says more about your work ethic and professionalism.
Keep your standards: Do not be tempted by a quick fix, a few bucks, or even a snazzy title if you know this is not going to be what suits you long term. If you are not going to rock the job, then wait and find one that you will. Hill Navigator understands that sometimes we take jobs because we need — not want — them. But come up with some standards and do your best to stick to them. Whether it’s working for a member you feel invested in or getting a salary you feel suits your talents, take your job search slow rather than jumping into anything that waves a dollar or fancy title in front of your face.
Don’t make financial decisions on an empty stomach: Do not make any work-life-money decisions while caught up in the moment. Take time to think about what your options are — preferably in a situation outside of work when you’re well-rested and with a clear head.
Avoid the drama: You’re probably never going to get the “Jerry Maguire” “Who’s coming with me?” moment. You probably won’t even get the Bridget Jones or “Half Baked” versions either. Real job departures are quieter, more complicated and don’t involve goldfish. If you’re departing, there are loose ends to tie up, vacation days to cash out and health insurance to figure out. You don’t want to leave with a flourish; you want to leave with a plan.
Don’t let one represent all: Say you like your job and work, but there just happens to be one person whose vision/actions/attitudes are making you want to bolt. Think hard before considering making a drastic move on the basis of one person. If it’s a toxic office, yes, try and get out of there post-haste. But if it’s one person who is too big for her or his britches in an otherwise pleasant environment, see if you can thrive despite him or her. Connect with the co-workers you do get along with; find ways to collaborate on projects with those whose work style best complements your own. You’ll always have an oddball co-worker. Focus on steering your energy away from that person and toward more productive and effective people.
Recognize this is all part of the ups and downs of a career: You’ll kiss a lot of frogs before finding a prince, just as you’ll have stellar and dire moments in your long career. (Unless you’re Sheryl Sandberg, but most of us aren’t.) There will be a job well-suited to you, even if it’s not the one you have now. The bad doesn’t last, but the good doesn’t, either. Think of this as a test for how well you handle rough transitions. You’ll be glad you kept your wits about you.
March 4, 2014
Each of us has a short list tucked away someplace: the handful of people who say nice things about us and are willing to serve as recommendations. By their very nature, recommendations are favorably biased–we’re more likely to provide the names of the people who view us as successes, rather than failures, so this is a less a scientific examination and more of a praise-a-thon. But what if you want to use your member of Congress’ office on your short list, even if your internship was back in the days of Speaker Dennis Hastert? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. I used to intern on the Hill. What is proper etiquette on using my recommendation letter from the Member’s office once he or she is out of office?
A. Hmm, Hill Navigator is not sure if you mean a “recommendation” — like having a former co-worker attest to your stellar interpersonal skills — or an actual letter, which once upon a time people would produce as validations of their good character. Full story
January 27, 2014
It’s the congressional Super Bowl: Once a year, the nation tunes in to watch the House floor as members, senators, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet secretaries, dignitaries, VIPs and some lucky invitees get together for the president’s annual speech. And sometimes, if you look closely at the edge of the network camera shots, you can spot one of the many congressional staffers on the scene.
Hill Navigator has been through her share of SOTU speeches. While the late night and frantic scurrying can be exhausting, it is also one of the best nights to be a staffer on Capitol Hill. Your workplace — so to speak — is hosting the president of the United States. Even the raised print business card pales compared to that.
To make your big night even smoother — or just provide something entertaining to read during the endless security sweeps — Hill Navigator has put together a staffer survival guide for the SOTU. Enjoy.
For the Press Secretary: This is your night. Sure, your boss might be the one sitting in the seat thinking deep thoughts on domestic and foreign policy, but this is your chance to meet your member afterward, shuttle him or her from camera to camera in Statuary Hall and get that press release back to your home-state papers posthaste. A few tricks that might help:
- Talk to your local paper ahead of time. Get their deadlines and see if you can send an embargoed quote. The president has an embargoed speech floating around, so you certainly can muster up a prewritten reaction. It helps everyone go to bed a little earlier.
- Find out if any of the Statuary Hall cameras can pipe feed back to your local stations. Most TV stations want a local reaction to the SOTU for their 11 p.m. newscast and early morning shows. Don’t forget the extra cameras in the Russell and Cannon Rotundas (and be sure to look for Roll Call’s camera — new this year!). If you have no idea what I’m referring to, talk to your caucus leadership; they will have camera maps and timelines for you.
- Remind the boss to put the BlackBerry or iPhone away. Every year someone gets caught scrolling on their device instead of listening. As much as Heard on the Hill loves it, don’t be that person.
For the Staff Assistant: Each member gets a guest, and often it’s the staff assistant’s job to greet that person and help them to their location. Some tips for you:
- No matter what you think of the president or his speech, this is a huge honor for your guest. Play it up. Be excited for them. Gush a little. If your boss has deemed the visitor important, than don’t let her or him think otherwise.
- Know where you’re going. Sure, you should know how to get to the Capitol, but find out what time the guest should be seated and where. Not sure of the logistics? Call your caucus leadership or the office of your chamber’s sergeant-at-arms. They’ll have any answer you need, and then you’ll be the prepared and confident staffer smart enough to have done his or her homework.
For the Policy Staffers: This is your night to kick back and take it easy. Typically, a response is not needed from you on SOTU night. Find a D.C. bar and watch the speech, or stay at home in your PJs. Just make it to the end of the speech. Remember that any reference, no matter how brief, will rile up interest groups, and they’ll likely be looking to pounce on any opportunity to bring their issue front and center. Be sure to check your email before calling it a night.
For the Chief of Staff: Offices have varying rules about how late staffers need to stay when the boss is around. Don’t be that COS who asks everyone to stay and watch the SOTU from their desks. Figure out who needs to stay and communicate that, preferably a day ahead of time. And if the edict comes down that everyone needs to be there (there are some offices …) then order in dinner. Boss’s treat.
November 25, 2013
Blame Congress. That’s what opinion polls seem to suggest that the general public does. But what if the problem isn’t Congress, but a set of ruthless co-workers? Hill Navigator discusses why competitive offices may not be confined to the Capitol.
Q. My office suffers from a bit of unhealthy competitiveness. What do you make of competition that puts individual performance over the goals of the member of Congress that we work for? This is clearly the case when co-workers undercut and subvert the work of others in order to appear more intelligent or capable. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a phenomenon anywhere other than Capitol Hill. Does such a dog-eat-dog mentality exist in the private sector? What is to be made of competition that puts individual performance over the goals of the employer?
A. Sorry to be the one to tell you, but no workplace — public or private — is exempt from the dog-eat-dog mentality you mention. Capitol Hill has it. The White House has it. Private companies have it. Even newsrooms have it!
Capitol Hill is brimming with high-achieving, goal-oriented masters of big ideas and small talk. You can’t get elected to Congress without it. You might land some incredible co-workers who will push you to do your best. But sometimes that same intense drive to be recognized for success can backfire, particularly when it comes at the expense of a co-worker.
What to do if you’ve landed in such an office? Full story
November 19, 2013
For every reader question about trying to find a job on Capitol Hill, there seems to be someone anxious to depart. The Hill is, if nothing else, a whirling turnstile for staff. But how do you leave on the best of terms? Hill Navigator discusses below.
Q. I work on Capitol Hill, have a decent position and even recently got a promotion. Maybe it’s the writing on the wall with budget cuts and sequestration that I am facing a few more years with low pay before moving up, or my own impatience and ambition, but I feel like I am ready to make a move and more money. If I were to leave, I would want to do so on best terms with the office as they have been very good to me over the years. Should I discuss with my supervisors that I am thinking about looking around or is that a good way to lose the job I have already? Does it look bad to potential employers that you are firing off résumés without consulting your management, or is that just the way of the world? Or am I getting ahead of myself and should bide my time and continue to work my way up the ladder? I know loyalty is pretty much everything in politics, so I don’t want my office to think I am ungrateful for what they have done for me or lose my job because I am getting ahead of myself. Thanks, from a regular reader.
A. Rarely does Hill Navigator receive a question and answer in the same email, but it seems you’ve hit the nail on the head: In any transition, leave your office on the best terms possible and remember that loyalty is, indeed, “pretty much everything.”
But how to do that? There are a few ways to go about it, though you know your office and supervisors best, so you should determine which is best for your transition. And proceed cautiously.
Find an old hand: Before you talk to your bosses, talk to someone who’s already left your office on good terms. How did they do it? What would they recommend? Was there a reaction they hadn’t anticipated? Nearly everyone in D.C. has changed jobs a time or two (or 12), so they will understand the need for confidentiality and smiles all around.
Timing is everything: Depending on your timeline, bring up the idea of a transition in a neutral zone. Wait for a performance review, or a particularly calm time in the office to talk about your future. Don’t pick a bad week, when the boss is screaming and the chief of staff cancels Christmas break, to say you’re feeling less than pleased. By choosing a time when talking about your future is already part of the conversation, you won’t be upsetting anyone.
Use broad brushstrokes: When you have the conversation, frame the future broadly. You want to grow and expand. Can you do this in your current role or will you outgrow the position soon? No office expects you to write mail forever, but if they don’t have a plan for another promotion for you, they may be able to discuss your timeline as adults and even help you with your job search.
Be sure before sending out résumés: The Hill is a small place. If there is a job you’re particularly angling for but can’t have a conversation with your office yet, ask for confidentiality. If you can’t ask for confidentiality directly, consider holding off on applying until you speak with someone. D.C. is so, so small. The fastest way to get off to a bad start is to have your boss learn from someone else that you’re applying elsewhere. Bosses are territorial. Even the ones who seem not to care about their staffs much will be peeved when they find out they’ve been poached. Many a rom-com has been made with this kind of wanting-what-you-can’t-have love triangle. Congress, it seems, is no different.
Beware the lame duck: And finally, know that when you have the conversation about leaving, whenever you do, that you’ll become a lame-duck staffer. You might have four weeks or you might have a year — but once your office knows that your future is elsewhere, you should take their assistance and move quickly. They’re likely already thinking about your replacement.