Workplace Issues Surrounding ‘Dear White Staffers’ & Those Seeking to Unionize Capitol Hill

Available for Interviews: Dara Barlin

Dara Barlin is the Founder & CEO of the Center for Transforming Culture and the author of the new book, A New Kind of Power: Using Human-Centered Leadership to Drive Innovation, Equity, and Belonging in Government Institutions.

What Dara Barlin Can say in an interview on the
How to Bring About Positive Change in Government Workplace:

New Book Provides Roadmap for
How to Transform Culture in Government

Staffer efforts to expose the toxic culture in Congress are gaining steam, as President Biden endorses the movement to unionize aides on the Hill and the IG account ‘Dear White Staffers’ builds wide-scale support. Leaders of the efforts say they are pushing back against an environment where staffers feel unappreciated, don’t feel safe speaking their truth, and suffer through biased and abusive boss behaviors—all for disproportionately low salaries.

While some are putting their hopes in a union to seed change, a new best-selling book has just come out describing an alternative path. The book, A New Kind of Power: Using Human-Centered Leadership to Drive Innovation, Equity and Belonging in Government Institutions, highlights the voices of policy leaders from around the country who offer easier and more effective ways to transform culture. The five chapters provide clear, concrete steps institutional leaders can take in partnership with employees to transform culture in ways that get better outcomes for staffers and government. Here is an overview of some of the steps described:

1) Design Systems to Support More
Choice & Voice for Employees

Many successful government agencies are finding ways to enable deeper listening of employee needs and offering more opportunities for staff to have a say in decisions that affect them. This gives employees a sense of agency and ownership, meaning they are likely to feel appreciated and stick around longer. In addition to better employee retention, these institutions are also experiencing large returns on investments through increased productivity, decreased sick days, more nimbleness, better collaboration, and a much more engaged and inspired workforce.

2) Spark Innovation through
Human-Centered Design

Human-Centered Design is growing as an emerging trend to improve systems efficiency and innovation while making employees feel valued and even enthusiastic about their jobs. The process invites people from all layers of the organization (from staffers to front-line workers to senior leaders) to team up in clusters and work together to generate new solutions for pressing problems. The process makes employees co-designers in important institutional decisions, which fosters a sense of belonging and doubles the chances that employees will stay on the job. Other side benefits include increasing the number and quality of innovations, helping to make policy more effective, improving performance at work, and decreasing sick days.  

3) Create Psychologically Safe
Environments in the Workplace

Because of the “gotcha” mentality and incessant blame-gaming in political arenas, many government employees don’t feel safe admitting when they make mistakes or speaking up when they see problems. As a result, important issues get ignored, workstreams get derailed, mistakes get swept under the rug, and employees feel scared to come to work. However, institutions putting time into creating psychologically safe environments are noticing employees feel more confident in speaking their truth and are staying in jobs longer. In addition, these government institutions have more successful change efforts, a deeper sense of inclusiveness and belonging, increased innovation, and more trust in leadership (from employees and the public).

4) Pave a Human-Centered Path
Towards Equity & Inclusion

Government institutions are beginning to use Human-Centered Leadership strategies to develop a sense of unity around equity issues, without stoking conflict that creates divisions and hurts culture. Some are finding success by creating powerful leadership opportunities for DEI groups (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and ERGs (Employee Resource Groups). Others are bringing in naysayers to serve as co-designers of equity initiatives. And some are reaching out to the community to include them in the design and rollout of equity initiatives. These efforts are creating meaningful positive change without triggering backlash. They are also fostering empathy across institutions so that deeper listening and understanding can take place across the aisle and between communities of difference.

5) Find, Hire, and Promote
Leaders with High EQ

Many government institutions are starting to revamp their hiring process to give more priority to finding leaders who have a high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), in addition to having strong analytical and technical skills. The data show that EQ is twice as important as IQ or analytical skills when hiring and 71% of hiring managers now say they value EQ over IQ. The institutions engaging in efforts to hire these types of leaders are seeing stronger workplace culture which translates to better recruitment and retention. In addition, employers are seeing more inclusive pathways to leadership and less likelihood that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder end up in influential positions. 

There are over a dozen government officials highlighted in A New Kind of Power that are already using these and other strategies to transform culture. Contributors include senior leaders from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the NYC Commission on Human Rights, and many others. Their strategies are showing strong results in terms of employee trust, retention, productivity, innovation, and equity. The question is, will people on the Hill take notice and take action?


Interview: Dara Barlin

Dara Barlin is an international bestselling author and the CEO of the Center for Transforming Culture. She has over 20 years of experience partnering with organizations to support innovation and positive change through Human-Centered Leadership.  Dara’s research has been featured in the United Nations, U.S. Congress, Women in Government, and Harvard Education Spotlight Series. She has written numerous articles on how to inspire creative solutions on global issues for the World Policy Journal, Huffington Post, and Education Week. Her Kaleidoscope Method for community engagement has been touted as “the best ever seen” by White House leaders, state legislators, and UN officials. In 2012, she led a global campaign that helped to develop trust and a common blueprint for positive change across 97 countries.  Dara has a Master’s with honors in Public Policy from the London School of Economics and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Barnard College.

Barlin is the author of the new book, A New Kind of Power: Using Human-Centered Leadership to Drive Innovation, Equity, and Belonging in Government Institutions.

Jo Allison
Director of Public Relations
Success In Media, Inc.

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