Note, this article is part of our continuing series of articles titled “Dealing With….”. This special series is designed to provide simple practical advice of immediate usefulness to federal employees (and even local and state employees to a certain degree) dealing with certain situations specifically indicated in the article.
Your Assigned Supervisor is Beyond Your Control
As employee labor relations practitioners, we often deal with organizational realignments of agency components affecting all levels of an organization. Such realignments often result in changes in supervisory assignments affecting bargaining unit employees. Affected employees, and sometimes labor organizations, often raise concerns regarding the assignment of specific supervisors- even demanding certain supervisors not supervise certain employees. Simply stated, the assignment of supervisors over any specific individual employee or group of employees is outside the scope of collective bargaining and beyond the control of both the affected individual employee and labor organization. You may have “a right” to a supervisor. However, you do not have “a right”, or even any influence over, as to who that supervisor is.
If an employee or labor organization approaches us to raise concerns regarding the assignment of a supervisor, or the assignment of an employee or group of employees to a supervisor, our reaction will always be the same- complete rejection. In fact, we typically will not even discuss the issue and advise our clients (managers and executives) to do the same. It is a line in the sand that should never be crossed. Crossing the line, by either labor or management, strikes the very core of efficient government operations and the ability to manage the federal workforce.
The Federal Services Labor Management Relations Statute, although somewhat “watered down” by years of case law, reserves a supervisory assignment, and most matters involving assignment of work in any regard, to the sole discretion of the agency. This right includes the right to determine particular assigned duties of any employee (supervisory or non-supervisory), when work assignments occur, and to who or what positions the duties will be assigned. Social Security Administration, Baltimore, 111 LRP 29892 , 65 FLRA 726 (FLRA 2012). See, Social Security Administration, 65 FLRA 638 (FLRA 2011); Federal Prison Camp Duluth, Minn., 65 FLRA 588 (FLRA 2011).
In 2005, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) reinforced the right of an agency to assign a supervisor to any employee or group of employees without intereference in both NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 61 FLRA 382 (FLRA 2005) and Military Sealift Command, 60 FLRA 828 (FLRA 2005). In NASA, the FLRA determined a proposal requiring the agency to assign particular duties to a specific management official, or otherwise requiring a management official to perform specific tasks, interferes with an agency’s right to assign work. In the Military Sealift Command case, the FLRA ruled a union proposal that civilian employees be supervised by a civilian interfered with management’s right to assign work.
SIDEBAR: The position of neither our consultants or the FLRA is intended to preclude bargaining over appropriate arrangements related to a realignment, to the extent required by law. However, such bargaining would never encompass which supervisor is assigned over an employee or group of employees; or, to who any individual employee is assigned.
Summation (“Get Over It”)
As federal employee, there are certain instances in which you can influence various aspects of the workplace environment. However, you have absolutely no control over who is assigned to be your supervisor. If you have a personality or professional conflict with you supervisor, you will need to get over it. There really is no choice. Your supervisor also has a certain amount of responsibility in this regard. True professionals find a way to deal with these situations or risk adverse consequences. As we tell our clients, as a federal employee you must adjust your peronality to the workplace; the workplace is not required to adjust to the unique personality of each federal employee.