interoffice-politics

Farenthold Case Prompts Talk About Sexual Harassment on Capitol Hill

Cloakroom buzzed about sexual harassment as the House Ethics Committee announced its next step on Farenthold's case. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

"What do you do if you're being sexually harassed in your office?" one user asked Monday morning on the anonymous Capitol Hill social-networking app Cloakroom.  

It prompted one person, identifying himself as a 26-year-old male working for a 40-year-old female chief of staff, to share his own situation.  

Say Goodbye to That Co-Worker You Never Liked
The Ashley Madison Fallout: How Will Staffers Fare?

Capitol Hill offices must decide how to handle staffers caught in the Ashley Madison hack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Information is still coming in about the people and technology devices connected to the Ashley Madison website, which promotes extramarital affairs. But several former staffers and current public relations professionals think a link from a House office to the site could be a job-ending offense, especially if the member of Congress feels the negative press will go over poorly with constituents.  

“Putting the member of Congress and the office in a bad position with voters back home because of bad personal choices is definitely a fire-able offense,” said Ron Bonjean, a former chief of staff to the Senate Republican Conference and communications director for former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and now a partner with Rokk Solutions.  

Capitol Hill Is No Place for the Passive

Looking for a Capitol Hill promotion? Time to act quickly (CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Good things come to those who wait — except on Capitol Hill, where good things come to those who pounce immediately at the opportunity. Passivity has a time and place, but it’s not likely to serve you well in the competitive job hunt. Hill Navigator discusses how and when to speak up.

Q. For several months now, I have been working in my member's district office. While I never made my intentions to work on the Hill clear during the hiring process, the right position has opened up and I'm not sure how to approach the subject with my office. Is the trajectory from the district office to the Hill uncommon? Also, what tips and advice can you offer to those hoping to make this transition?
A. Start now! You are in a prime position to pursue this job, and I say that without having any idea what your qualifications are or what this job entails. What I do know is that if you are thinking about making a move from the district office to D.C. and the “right” position has come along, you should begin the process ASAP to let your supervisor know you’re interested and see what you can do to become a candidate for the position.  

Let me explain a few reasons why.  

Banish the Conference Call, Part 1: Why It's Awful

"Can you hear me now?" (Art by Chris Hale)

“That was a great conference call,” said no one ever. Or, maybe they had, but couldn’t be heard over the traffic zooming by, or another participant’s dog barking or the person who thinks they’re on mute and is chattering away rather than listening.  

The conference call: When will it end? And how can we find a better way to communicate?  

Banish the Conference Call, Part 2: Alternatives

Is anyone really listening to that conference call? (Art by Chris Hale)

Conference calls provide a mediocre solution to a legitimate dilemma on how best to connect multiple people simultaneously for a conversation. “Sometimes it’s the only way to coordinate between three people,” said Brad Fitch, president of the Congressional Management Foundation.  

“So many teams are virtual and it’s quite expensive to fly people,” agreed Laura Stack, also known as The Productivity Pro, an expert on office productivity and performance. “You all have to get together to coordinate and make a decision, and there doesn’t seem to be a more effective cost-efficient way to do that.”  

How to Deal With Those 'No' People

Just say no: Every Capitol Hill office has a "no" person. How do you get them to yes? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

"Whatever it is, I'm against it" — Groucho Marx, "Horse Feathers" They're everywhere — the ones denying vacation days, nixing reimbursement receipts, hoarding office supplies and ignoring your requests.  

They are the “no” people, those who love to turn down requests whenever possible. They’re goalkeepers who stop everything coming their way, while inflicting mammoth bruises on the competition. If they’re not ruining your day, they’re sticking on a Grinch Santa cap to ruin someone else’s. There’s a "no" person in every office, especially on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress say "yes" to every constituent and press request and then leave it up to the staffers to sort it out. But some "no" people take their jobs more seriously than others. And in offices with blended hierarchical layers, a "no" person can threaten to veto a project or request at any time.  

When No One in Your Office Likes You

Feeling like the odd one out among fellow staff? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On some level, we all want to like our co-workers. Eight hours a day (or more) sitting next to someone is certain to go a lot more smoothly if you enjoy the company. But what happens when the relationship among staff has more animosity than amicability? And worse yet, what happens when it’s directed at you? Hill Navigator discusses.

Q. I landed a great job with a great boss on the Hill but I just don't seem to fit in with the other staff. They often go to receptions and don't invite me and they don't include me when they go out for happy hour. They have been working together long before I started and know each other well but don’t seem to like me. How do I get them to include me?
Ah, the dreaded, “my co-workers don’t like me.” Just when you think you’ve outgrown the last of the popularity contests, you’ve landed in the middle of a competitive, close-knit bunch and you’re the odd one out.  

Before launching into advice, let’s take a moment for hurt feelings, shall we? At the heart of being disliked is the painful, visceral uneasiness that comes with it. Even if you’re confident in your abilities, have dear friends, strong relationships and plenty of activities outside of work, it won’t change the ugly feelings that come with stepping inside of an office that isn’t exactly pleased to see you .  

And the Year it Was: Hill Navigator’s Best of 2014

Need Capitol Hill advice? Roll Call's Hill Navigator lists our favorite columns of 2014 (CQ Roll Call File Photo).

It’s been another year of advice giving, observing staffers and commenting on the workplace. The Senate changed hands. Staffers were fired . Campaigns were won (and lost) and fresh faces are beginning to arrive on Capitol Hill in time for a January swearing-in.  

But some things never change. Interns still work for free, aspiring staffers still want to work on Capitol Hill and existing staffers want promotions (and raises !) too. Hill Navigator would be nothing without staffer gripes and looks forward to another year of writing about the intricacies of the Capitol Hill workplace. But some columns are worth an extra mention, perhaps another read. Here are some of my personal favorites from the past year. 1. The Other Back Room: Let’s talk breastfeeding. And Capitol Hill. And some of the fantastic facilities it provides for moms who pump on Capitol Hill. This column was a favorite of mine both because of the excellent amenities the Hill provides and the chance to educate future pumping-women about their options.  

How to Negotiate Anything: Lessons Learned From the Capitol Leaders Program

Is bipartisanship making a comeback? Harvard’s Capitol Leaders Negotiation Program thinks so. (CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Forty House and Senate foreign affairs and national security staffers came together recently at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs to learn the necessary skills to overcome gridlock in Congress. The program was organized by the Partnership for a Secure America and Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. The bridge to bipartisanship, it seems, will be built by cooperative staffers.  

The bridge to bipartisanship, it seems, will be built by cooperative staffers.