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Posted by on Nov 30, 2010

Pay Freezes Present Leadership Opportunities

If you’re a manager in the federal government, you’ve heard some big news this week: not only will your pay be frozen for the next two years, but so will the pay of those who report to you. If you’re new to supervision you may wonder whether it is best to proactively surface this issue with your team or just hope they won’t bring it up. Don’t let the water cooler conversation get ahead of your leadership. Now is a great time for government supervisors to step up, talk with their team members about what matters most in their work, and turn the issue of pay freezes into an opportunity to foster more engagement within the team.

You probably realize that annual increases are not the only reason that people stay in their jobs, but when was the last time that you talked with your team about what does keep them engaged in their jobs? How did those conversations go? Research shows that when managers take the time to talk with employees about what really gets them excited about their work, and then do all they can (beyond pay and promotions) to connect the dots between assignments and energy, engagement levels go up along with several other positive workplace indicators.

If you have a solid performer on your team that you think is at risk of leaving, here are some engagement tools that you can use to turn things around. In addition to using these tools with your employees, now is also a good time for you to ask yourself these questions. Take time to re-engage your own energy and focus too, so you can continue to be the best leader you can be for your team.

  • The High Cost of Low Engagement: What Supervisors Can Do About It by Casey Wilson

This short white paper is designed to help supervisors build trust and engagement with their team members through intentional conversations about their work and what energizes them. Applying the principles in this article (as well as the book it connects to, The Cornerstones of Engaging Leadership) will help you to navigate through some of the most important conversations you will ever have as a leader. You can access the white paper and the book through the following links. (Full disclosure: My boss wrote this white paper, the book, and the course we offer on this topic. I’m recommending them because they work, not for any extra engagement “points”.)

White Paper:



  •  Love ’em Or Lose ’em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans

This book contains multiple “stay factors” for supervisors to leverage with their staff, such as opportunities for growth, meaningful work and great co-workers. The authors include questions that supervisors can use to conduct “stay interviews,” or conversations that surface what matters most and what it will take to keep them on board. You can read about the book here:

  • 12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter

This book is full of stories, examples, and data that show the power of engaging employees in service to a common mission. The research for this book came from interviews with more than 10 million employees. You can read more about the book here:

The upcoming year is promising to be one that includes an increasing focus on budgets and performance. This is the perfect time to use employee engagement as the tool to maintain focus and achieve performance goals. What tools do you use as a leader to carry out the important work of talent management? I’d love to hear from you.

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