The Foreign Service Journal, May 2022

AFSA NEWS AFSA NEWS THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE ASSOCIATION 2022 AFSA Leadership and Management Survey Results BY JULIE NUTTER, DIRECTOR OF PROFESSIONAL POLICY ISSUES In two recent AFSAmember surveys—the workplace bias survey in 2020 and the retention survey in 2021 (in conjunction with Harvard’s Kennedy School)—our active- duty members frequently raised the issue of how lead- ership behavior and deci- sion-making affect morale, retention and job satisfaction in the Foreign Service. Due to this sustained focus, in January 2022 AFSA launched an active-duty mem- ber survey on leadership and management in the Foreign Service. In total, 1,661 people, or 13 percent of active-duty AFSAmembers, responded. The survey’s design is broadly similar to the annual Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey, or FEVS, in that it posits positive statements about Foreign Service leader- ship and management, and respondents rate the state- ments along a spectrum of responses, from strongly dis- agree (one star) to strongly formed well in their jobs despite deficits in leadership and did not necessarily look to leadership for inspiration. Members instead cited strong personal work ethics and bedrock beliefs in the mission of the Foreign Service as their sources of inspiration. Greater consistency in leader- ship might produce more trust and would undoubtedly reduce friction and raise morale in the workplace. Lack of policy vision, policy execution, policy prioritization. Members highlighted a perceived lack of a clear policy vision in their agencies and a serious deficit in the execution of policies, even when policies are clearly articulated. Members noted that crises drive energies to certain issues, but otherwise, prioritization of policy goals was found wanting by a num- ber of respondents. A lack of prioritization was mentioned as contributing to overwork and burnout. agree (five stars). The survey then allows members to contribute additional written responses explaining their ratings. Overall, the ratings of leadership and management across all agencies in the Foreign Service averaged three stars. In their written comments, many respondents noted that they gave the survey statements three stars (a “neutral” rating) due to the pervasive inconsistency of the quality of Foreign Service leadership. Members cited numerous examples of hav- ing a wonderful boss in one position and enduring a ter- rible boss in the next. Inconsistency of lead- ership. The inconsistency of leadership quality poses a substantial challenge to maintaining high morale in the Foreign Service work- force. For example, when asked who inspired them, members said they per- CALENDAR Please check for the most up-to-date information. May 5 AFSA Foreign Service Day Events May 6 Foreign Service Day May 17 Deadline: Nominations for AFSA Dissent and Performance Awards May 18 12-2 p.m. AFSA Governing Board Meeting May 30 Memorial Day AFSA Offices Closed June 15 12-2 p.m. AFSA Governing Board Meeting Continued on page 62 AFSA Hosts Policy Planning Director Salman Ahmed, director of the Secretary of State’s Policy Plan- ning Staff (S/P), spoke to more than 100 AFSAmembers in a closed virtual session on March 8. The conversation, which followed his interview in the March FSJ , offered members the chance to pose questions about the newly launched Policy Ideas Channel and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s modernization agenda. Ahmed also discussed the strategic implications of the Ukraine crisis and other priori- ties for Secretary Blinken. The event was co-hosted by Ambassador Eric Rubin, AFSA president, and Christopher Barnes, first vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1534, which represents State Department Civil Service employees. After welcoming the director, Rubin raised the question of “how to invigorate the process by which career employees share ideas and concerns.”He said AFSA is hopeful that, through this channel, innovation can strengthen the Foreign Service at a pivot point in U.S. foreign policy. Members noted that consistent, clear agency vision needs to be paired with definable goals that produce results, and employees up and down the chain of command Continued on page 61 THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2022 55