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Why breaking rank is sometimes a good thing

Breaking rank at a federal agency can land most employees in trouble. But for one brave fed at the Office of Personnel Management, breaking rank meant getting an on-the-spot award.

Speaking at a conference May 2, OPM Director John Berry recounted how one of his employees took the initiative to reach him directly during this year’s snowstorm and, as a result, saved the agency from a major embarrassment.
Berry, who was up late dealing with the weather, said he was still asleep at 7 a.m. the day of that storm in January. When Berry woke, he found a message on his Blackberry from an employee informing him that the Washington radio station WTOP was announcing it couldn’t get a hold of anyone at OPM to discuss the government’s operating status.

Berry explained that he called WTOP right away and avoided what could have been two hours of the radio station telling listeners, “OPM is still in bed.”

When Berry arrived at work, he said the employee – identified only as Seth – looked upset because he had been reprimanded for breaking rank and calling the agency’s director.

In response, Berry said, “Seth, you did exactly the right thing. You got information to the person that needed to know to solve [the problem].” And, Seth was given an award in front of the agency’s managers.

If it hadn’t been for that employee, “we would have gotten a big black eye that morning,” Berry concluded.

Posted by Alyah Khan on May 03, 2011 at 12:55 PM

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