Insider Quote: An Accepted Part of Culture

“Until the 1970s, female officers who married were expected to leave the Service. There was no legal or regulatory justification for this; it was just an accepted part of the culture. Wives of officers were expected to provide uncompensated services at posts, usually at community activities or representational events. In fact, annual efficiency reports included a paragraph to be written on the officer’s wife – often by the wife of the American ambassador.”

Jack Zetkulic

Senior Foreign Service Officer
U.S Diplomatic History in Brief – a Foreign Service Perspective
From Historical Sketches: US Diplomacy

Quote: I’m actually a bad man who happens to have a limit…

“I’m actually a bad man who happens to have a limit beyond which I wouldn’t go,” [he says]. “The strange thing is that a lot of people who are very good men — who have never been unfaithful to their wives, always go to bed by ten and even go to church — didn’t have any trouble with the torture bit. That’s the thing I really don’t get.”

Craig Murray

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan (August 2002 – October 2004)
Quoted in The Sunday Times, September 21, 2008
“Craig Murray on sex, murder and intrigue

Taxes & EERs: April Pain and Suffering About Over?

Foreign Service people tend to pick up multiple skills on the job (e.g. feeding sharks, diving, feeding the fish back in DC, languages, shaking hands with dictators, etc. etc.). Multi-tasking is not the least of them (e.g. eat lunch and write cable or small talk/ translate/drink/ file info in brain folder, etc.). So it probably should not be a surprise to anyone that performance evaluation time coincides with tax time every year (except for untenured folks). Like one officer says:

“Far be it from me to question the wisdom of scheduling EER due dates at the same time as your tax returns; at least you’re combining as much pain and suffering into as short a time as possible. I’ve just finished my EER and each year I try to tell myself I’ll be more organized for next year.”

That’s from the Foreign Service Tips and Tricks blog with some good tips on employee evaluation reports for FS folks. Continue reading Preparing your EER – forms and tips.

If you’re new or contemplating a career in the FS, don’t forget to check out the Foreign Service Core Precepts (pdf). The Core Precepts provide the guidelines by which Selection Boards determine the tenure and promotability of U.S. Foreign Service employees. These Precepts will be in effect for the 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 rating cycles. The precepts reflect the principles of the Career Development Program, with its emphasis on operational effectiveness, leadership and management effectiveness, sustained professional language and/or technical proficiency, and responsiveness to service needs. AFSA says that management has consulted with them regarding the content and form of these Precepts.

The precepts are also posted in the AFSA website. I don’t have a copy of the previous set of precepts but I think the items appearing in bold or italics have been tweaked/added/repositioned into the current version of these precepts.

Back on EERs – I’m sure you know this but at least one did not — whatever you do, do not/not alter the language in your Employee Evaluation Report after it had been finalized by rater, and reviewing official.

There’s this weird FSGB case — an FSO altered the language on her EER report after it had been finalized; while her rating officer was on TDY, submitted the altered report to HR; was then found out when HR returned the document to the rating officer for a more balanced modification.

The FSO was slapped with a Letter of Reprimand arising from a charge of poor judgment. And here is the interesting part – the FSO went to the Grievance Board to seek “mitigation of the penalty, or if reprimand is deemed appropriate, that the Letter of Reprimand be amended to remove falsely prejudicial statements not supported by the facts.”

Part of the FSO/grievant’s argument was that her rater had orally agreed to make a change to the Area for Improvement (AFI) section of the EER if she (grievant) would provide her boss/rater’s supervisor a positive statement regarding her boss’ performance.

Isn’t there a song that goes, like — I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine, baby? Oops, sorry, I can’t help myself ….

Anyway, according to the FSGB report published online, the FSO/grievant asserts that her supervisor/rater contacted her, seeking her “help in making his own EER sound more interesting, more ‘punchy,’ as he put it.” During this meeting, FSO/grievant took the opportunity to address her concerns regarding language contained in the AFI section of her own EER. FSO/grievant avers that her rater agreed to change one word in it as she had requested, if she provided an e-mail to rater’s superiors regarding his performance as a supervisor.

The FSGB decision? HELD: Department established that issuance of a Letter of Reprimand for use of poor judgment was justified and that the penalty was appropriate under the circumstances.

This case (FSGB No. 2008-039)
was published online as a Word document in the FSGB website, but I have converted the file into pdf so you can easily read it here. I’m still sore where I fell off when I read this …