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POSITION CLASSIFICATION AS AN OPPORTUNITY COST FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

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posted on 2023-08-04, 14:00 authored by Michael Charles Wilson

Position classification is a product of two great social and intellectual movements of the early twentieth century--civil service and scientific management. From the former it took the idea of equal pay for equal work, regardless of the worker's race, sex, or political affiliation. From the latter it took a concern for efficiency and the notion of "one best way" of performing work. Both pay equity and efficiency are still highly valued among students of public administration, but there are serious questions concerning whether classification is the best way of achieving them. These questions have been raised both by personnel management practitioners, who have concentrated on making technical refinements to the existing system, and by a few academics who have implied the need for more fundamental changes without describing in any detail what those changes might be. This dissertation examines position classification as it is actually performed in the Federal Government. Data were gathered through participant observation as a position classifier in a Federal agency, survey research involving almost 900 Federal classifiers, interviews with Office of Personnel Management and Commerce Department personnel officials, and review of various documents. The principal conclusions drawn are that classification, for better or for worse, keeps managers from doing some things they want to do; as a result, many time-consuming disputes occur between classifiers and managers; classifiers may win some of these disputes, but only those which are of relatively little importance to agency top management; OPM, the classifier's institutional ally, will never have the resources needed to ensure complete classification accuracy in the face of agency opposition; the principal cost of position classification is not its inhibiting effect on managerial flexibility, but the adversarial relationship it promotes between classifiers and managers when a consulting relationship is called for; finally, adherence to position classification in its present form as the one best way inhibits experimentation with possibly better ways to assign work and compensate workers. Greater use of the research and development program authorized by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 is urged.

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American University

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English

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Ph.D. American University 1983.

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http://hdl.handle.net/1961/thesesdissertations:2049

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application/pdf

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