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Government Building




Federal government employees exist in an environment of constant change. Large-scale reform, leadership turnover, scathing GAO reports, and new system implementation occur under the added pressure of intense media scrutiny. Federal agencies are challenged by the pace of change. What can you do?

A simple response might be to “wait it out,” as the bureaucratic employee will likely last longer than the politically-appointed leader driving the change. This type of implied resistance is exactly what people expect from government employees.  

What if there is a more complicated story? What if resistance is not simply tied to the need to “outlast” current leadership, ignoring a new system or bad publicity, but rather it is rooted in a deep psychological desire to maintain connection to an aspect of the organization (history, culture, mission, etc.) that may be impacted by an impending change?  

More importantly, what if this attachment
could be a powerful tool for encouraging change?  

The basis for this research is to describe how the Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) data can be used to identify attachment symptoms within federal agencies. This information is then used to better understand the change readiness of the agency. This data driven information will become a valuable tool to leadership working to successfully move the agency through the next major change.

To review the change readiness score for your agency, click here  

FEVS Data >

(hosted through shinyapps) 

Why is This Important?
Attachment theory provides a strong understanding of why your individuals resist change. They are not lazy, wrong, or bad people; they have a deep psychological connection to some aspect of the organization and change challenges that connection. By understanding this attachment and understanding your organization, you can more effectively support your employees through change by either: 

1) helping them find a new attachment in the future state or 
2) providing them a transitional object that will support them through the change.

Based on the FEVS data, there are five key transitional objects for federal employees: 

  1. Mission

  2. Senior Leaders 

  3. Direct Supervisors 

  4. Information

  5. Skills


Leaders can use these five objects as a way to support employees through a change such as explaining how the change supports the mission, using well-respected senior leaders or direct supervisors to deliver messages, regular communication of information, and a dedicated effort to support skills development through the change.  

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