Federal HR staffers brace for post-shutdown blues

The partial government shutdown is in its third week. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – What might the prolonged government shutdown leave behind in the workplace? Bitter feelings? Tension? Anxiety?

Some federal human resources staffers are anticipating they’ll have their work cut out when all federal employees and contractors return to their jobs.

“They’re preparing for a potential HR problem, morale problem when they get back,” said Francis Rose, anchor of “In Depth with Francis Rose” on Federal News Radio.

Rose says HR personnel have told him they are concerned about potential problems on two fronts.

“One of them is the idea that we had people who stayed on at a particular agency and some people who were furloughed. And it appears, at least, that everybody will get the same back pay when Congress makes a deal,” Rose said.

Equal back pay could embitter exempt employees who stayed on the job, conceivably working harder as they take up the slack of their furloughed colleagues with forced time off.

“Some of the folks who worked are going, ‘Wait a minute. Is that really fair?'” Rose said.

A second potential problem that HR staff anticipates is that federal workers and contractors could return to their jobs with a weight on their shoulders.

“If Congress makes a deal based on the parameters that we know about today, this is only going to take us through the beginning of January or February,” Rose says of Tuesday’s discussions among lawmakers.

“People are saying, ‘Geez are we going to get back to the same situation in January or February where we’re going to get jerked around again,'” Rose says.

Then there’s the case of contractors who face the likely possibility that they will not receive back pay for furloughed hours. Rose says this could raise the prospect of jealous tensions in the workplace.

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