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Career ladder positions in the Federal system.
February 8, 2013 7:20 AM   Subscribe

I am in a career ladder position in the Federal government. I'm approaching the end of my first year on the job. I have heard from colleagues/friends in government, that going up to the next GS-level in the ladder is almost automatic (requires sign-off from supervisor). Is this true? How do I request this increase from my supervisor? Also, can you help me find documents online which show that one is eligible to go up a grade after one year?

To clarify, I am not talking about step increases, but grade increases. For example, if somebody is a GS-9 on a 9-11-12 ladder, I am under the impression that that person is eligible to go from a GS-9 to a GS-11 after a year (and then from GS-11 to GS-12 the year after that), assuming great/outstanding performance. I have many friends in Federal government, and for them it has all worked like this.

I am on a similar ladder, and my performance is outstanding. What paperwork or documentation do I bring my supervisor when I ask her to increase my GS level?

I normally would assume that this would just happen, but my agency is a bit odd about things sometimes and I will feel more comfortable approaching my supervisor about this with documentation that this is a thing.

Any other advice would also be great. I am super nervous about this whole process (and also do not want to fall into the "women are bad at asking for promotions" trap). This is important to me, and I would not have accepted this job 11 months ago without the assumption that I would go up a grade after a year. I'm concerned that some sort of red tape will prevent this from happening (internal politics are rampant at my organization!) and that I will have to start looking for a different job. I do not want to do that, because I love my job and my colleagues.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does your agency have a "human resources" office / "human capital" office / whatever? Training that offers materials that tell you about the policies? Internal directives or orders that spell these things out? Often the human resources office will have staff whose job it is to counsel you on these things. It's very difficult to answer this question generically. You need to know what your agency's rules are. Of course a ton of unwritten rules often apply but you have to start with the written ones, and in the federal government there are tons of written rules. You need to find the written rules for your agency.
posted by massysett at 7:43 AM on February 8, 2013


I think this is going to depend a lot on your organization - and maybe your office within your agency or department. I had a colleague who was told at his annual review, "well you've been an 11 for a year, your paperwork for your 12 is being processed". So you do want to check out your agency's intranet for info or your HR contact. If you are union, the union may have some info.

If you don't get any info about how your leadership behaves, I'd bring it up at your annual perfomance meeting. If your agency is like mine, you'll be given a chance to self-rank. Do not be shy about your accomplishments! Be detailed about what you have done and when the time for the discussion comes you can say, "I believe that given my leadership on Implentation Y, the innovations with Project Z, and my expertise in X where I am the go-to person for information, that I have demonstrated that I am working at the GS # level."

I'm also on MeMail if you have questions privately.
posted by pointystick at 7:47 AM on February 8, 2013


Just ask your supervisor how it works and what paperwork if any you might need. In the two federal agencies I have worked in (including now as a supervisor) it was been 100% automatic. I don't do a thing for my team's grade or step increases - they just start earning more money at the appropriate time. Sometimes it takes a few pay periods to kick in.
posted by semacd at 8:12 AM on February 8, 2013


You might want to make an appointment with your supervisor to discuss this.

Open with: I want to progress through the steps within my grade. As I finish up my first year I want to know how to move up to GS-11.

Listen to what your supervisor says. There may be a checklist of things that need to be accomplished, verify that you're ticking all the boxes.

Here are some other helpful questions, statements:

Is there any specific training I'll need to complete?
Is there someone I should be talking to in Human Resources?

It's not a discussion about a merit increase as it is a discussion of the mechanics of grade movement in the Federal Government.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:14 AM on February 8, 2013


Open with: I want to progress through the steps within my grade.

Don't say this. This is not what you want. You want the grade increase that your position guarantees. I'd imagine, like samacd says, it's automatic, but it doesn't hurt to ask, "Is there anything you or I need to do to process the grade increase for my ladder position?"
posted by psoas at 8:48 AM on February 8, 2013


Yeah, talk to HR. An automatic grade increase after a year may (or may not) be normal for your agency, but it is definitely not automatic government-wide. (Step increases are automatic for, I think, the first 3 years.)
posted by JoanArkham at 8:58 AM on February 8, 2013


GS veteran here! If you were "fully successful" or better on your last annual evaluation then you have been green-lit for the grade bump in a career-ladder position. You may want to poke your boss to in turn poke HR to make sure that it hapens on time though. It's not a big deal, this was expected when you got the job and is not a surprize to anyone. Congratulations.

PS - remember to poke your HR again at the end of 3 years to make sure they put you in for tenure!

PPS - I can answer follow-up for you as well a la Pointystick above.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2013


Did you have your annual review? Did your supervisor say anything to you about not getting the grade increase? You need to ask you supervisor about this to make sure h/she has turned in the paperwork. I had a supervisor who was slow in turning in my paperwork so it was delayed a pay period but I have never been told I wasn't going to get the grade increase.
posted by govtdrone at 10:42 AM on February 8, 2013


Nth'ing the "ask your boss" answers above. Remember that in any bureaucracy, there's never such a thing as "automatic," because someone somewhere has to fill out a form or push a button.
posted by Etrigan at 12:45 PM on February 8, 2013


A lot of good suggestions here on how to handle the discussion with your supervisor. If your agency is like mine, there will not be any written rules and it will be more of less based on longstanding practice. An outstanding rating may not guarantee a promotion. In my agency the employee is told she must demonstrate she can do work at the higher grade level in order to be promoted to that level. (However, that is an ideal standard and it is actually hazy what distinguishes one grade level from another.) A memo is prepared for the director by the supervisor attesting that the promotion is warranted.

If you find that the first promotion comes like clockwork, as some here have experienced, then you did not need to worry. But, if there were complexities you did not expect this time, and there is one more promotion available in your career ladder, I would like to suggest this for the next one: After you accomplish this particular promotion to the next grade level, be diligently proactive. Ask your supervisor what will be considered in making the jump from GS-11 to GS-12. If you do case work of some kind, for example, and you are told you need to show you can do a complex case, keep that in your sights. If no appropriate assignment comes your way, look for one. If the work you need to do goes to someone else, remind your supervisor that you are very interested in having the opportunity to perform that level of work and volunteer to be included on the team. Good luck!
posted by Prayless at 2:26 PM on February 10, 2013


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