County staff sounds off

Nichols said it was important the survey be anonymous so employees could answer honestly without fear of retribution.
 And answer they did.

More than half of the answers were negative. The most obvious positive was to the question, “How good could we be one year from now if we tried hard?” That rated a 7.25 on a scale of one to 10 (one standing for worst, 10 for best).

Results showed that the employees who took the survey didn’t feel enough attention was given to their safety, problems weren’t handled fairly, they aren’t recognized for accomplishments, they aren’t given training opportunities, free and open communication isn’t encouraged, the county isn’t dedicated to providing quality services, they don’t have the opportunity to change policies and procedures or that the county promotes equal opportunities for all staff.

Again, on a scale of one to 10, the staff rated morale at 3.70.

To the question “How good do you think we are today as an organization?” the compiled answer was 4.29.

And to “How good do Fluvanna residents think we are?” the answer was 4.07.

Nichols reaction to the results?
 “Our staff needs to be taken care of and they haven’t been taken care of,” he said. “Just like anyone else, they need to know they are worth being cared for.”

He’s not talking about giving them everything they want in terms of raises, training or benefits, he said. “But I think there is a lot of low-hanging fruit that we can pick to make things better,” Nichols said.

While he has his own ideas, Nichols is putting together what he calls a “Tiger Team” of volunteers – ideally from each department – who will look at the results and come up with ways to deal with the issues.
 “I want the Tiger Team to drive the change,” Nichols said.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent John Thompson said he thinks the study was a great idea. Even though Thompson and his staff are technically state employees, they were allowed to participate in the study.
 “I’m excited to see the focus on staff morale and getting their input,” Thompson said.

Jamie Vest is an Adult and Child Protective Services Foster Care worker. Because he has only been at his job a year, he said he decided not to take the survey. But he had an opinion about it.
 “The review was very intense and I think it’s good that they did it,” Vest said. “It will be interesting to see where it goes from here and if they’ll listen to what staff thought.”

About one third of the respondents took the opportunity to make additional comments.
 Here is just a smattering of those:
  • “Overall I don’t believe that the BOS (Board of Supervisors) really care about the employees of this county or what we think.”
  • “I would like to thank you for giving me the chance to voice my opinion. This is the first time it’s been asked for since I started working here.”
  • “…current actions of the board and the past administrator has caused employees to feel that they work in a toxic environment. The environment created has caused employees to look at themselves with not just less value, but with the fear that they can be terminated at a moment’s notice regardless of protections presented to us in official county policy. It’s one thing to like or dislike your job, but to be afraid of it is a sad way to spend the majority of your waking hours of life.”
  • Trust needs to be established? We need to be able to not be afraid to say what we think. Supervisors need to listen.
  • “Morale is low, Pay is low, and turnover rate is exceptionally high. (The) Same people are listened to, usually older people that have been around the county forever and don’t want change. County needs new blood, I have been here for four years and things have gotten exceptionally worse!!!
  • There are the same directors, department heads, etc., that are not doing their best at their job because they are just counting down the days to retirement and are just plain burnt out. There is no way to continue having good staff in Fluvanna because we do not feel appreciated, and every other county is paying much more for the same or lesser position. …Fluvanna is so, so far behind technologically, I mean really who uses a dry erase board and paper and pen to be signed in and out of work every day?? Lastly, and I apologize for going on a rant but the micro-managing is absurd, and it comes from the Board of Directors and trickles down to other departments… seems that everyone is on a power trip around here. Come on you are not the President of the USA, it’s just a small rural county… Respect your peers and don’t talk down to them because you think you are something big!! Alright I am done, and I am sorry this is not a positive review, but I feel better getting this off my chest, because there is no way one can do this with their supervisor. Everyone is on eggshells constantly!!”
  • We need better policies for weather-related and health-related emergencies….what to do…when to leave. The safety of our employees is critically important.
  • It appears when one is open and speaks their mind they get fired. Have not had a raise in 4 years.
  • We are not given a lunch break!
  • “I enjoy my job and my department, as a county employee I have felt my opinion doesn’t matter and neither does my family situation. I am a county employee, taxpayer, parent of school children, and have family ties to this community, so I have a vested interest in the overall health of the county. However, I can’t say I feel very appreciated or recognized for the importance of the job that I do for the county.”
  • I do like the fact that the new County Administrator has been sending emails out to all county staff to keep us informed. I also respect that he is sending out this survey for our opinions. I do hope that morale will improve for county employees. I also think that people do need to be recognized for the jobs they do or at least be encouraged for the things they do for the citizens of the county……..speaking of citizens of the county, on court green the map needs updating to the buildings. It is very difficult for citizens to find the proper building to pay taxes, or Clerks office, etc.
  • The events of the last few months including the budget process have had a very negative effect on an already demoralized staff. There seems to be a lot of mistrust among employees.
  • Fluvanna is a wonderful county – we’ve had negative reviews in the past two years-poor leadership. We need bosses that truly care for and encourage prosperity for Fluvanna. We have some GOOD people here – listen to them and try to work together for improvements. We need some visionaries on our boards.
  • Concerned w/ Sheriff’s radio system-horrendous-extremely unsafe. Cellular telephone in the County is equally as horrendous.
  • We all need to work together to give the citizens the best service we can. In these trying times it is hard to do it with staff shortages, increased caseload and budget cuts.
  • There is a lot of tension among the staff, we are not sure of what is expected and so much change and then probably more coming when get the new directors. Too many things that were not right happening at the same time making the community loose trust in the County employees.
  • With regards to performance appraisals, I have worked part-time for six years and have never had an official/written performance appraisal.
  • It is very disconcerting when wages do not go up, yet insurance deductions and taxes do; thus leaving even less money in our personal budgets which have already suffered due to the ever increasing costs of food, fuel, housing, automobiles, college education, etc. Where shall morale go? UP? NOT!!


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