Monday, December 12, 2016

National Park Service wrestles with harassment, low morale

This year was supposed to be a year of celebration for the National Park Service – the 100-year anniversary of “America’s best idea” – and in many ways it was. There have been special books and posters, articles and documentaries and a much-touted “Find Your Park” campaign. But there have also been congressional hearings, resignations, and scandal as festering workplace issues – including numerous sexual-harassment claims – come to light. A growing number of employees have come forward – including in high-profile parks like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone – to talk about a workplace culture where they say bullying is rampant, sexual harassment goes unaddressed, complaints can lead to retribution, and top employees face no accountability. Now, with attention from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the National Park Service (NPS) is under pressure to radically overhaul a work culture that many employees describe as toxic. And, in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election win, attention may focus on how well the agency is able to follow through on its promises to change that culture, and on how much priority the Trump administration gives to addressing sexual harassment...But the realization that some of those stories extended into the work culture of one of the most revered and admired of federal agencies has been shocking to many Americans – though not necessarily some long-time Park Service employees who say that numerous systemic issues have helped to create an environment in which bullying was common and accountability scarce. Some of the problems employees cite include a decentralized and hierarchical system – the NPS has about 22,000 employees at more than 400 sites, with a huge amount of power resting with the superintendents and administrators at those sites; isolated locations with close living conditions; a male-dominated culture; and personnel practices that tend to favor internal hiring of people with years of service in the agency, and that seem to give immunity to those same people...more

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It isn't just NPS when it comes to bullying, retribution, and harassment. I work for another bureau where that was the norm for a few years, but let's stick to NPS. I recall as a youth that getting an NPS job was the best thing you could wish for if you wanted to work in land preservation. Rangers were consistently held in the high esteem in public opinion polls. Not only was it lifetime tenure, positions were often "hereditary" with the offspring of park employees given preference in hiring. When I finally went to work for NPS as a term employee (one step above seasonal) I discovered everything I had heard about NPS was true. People used to come into the park on their days off just to help out. It was not easy but it was rewarding. Something happened along the way. The NPS Director recently had his own scandal over book publication and he was given a slap on the wrist. Talk about sending the wrong message.