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Tenet 4: Two-Year Requirement

[Anonymous] asked

I am approaching two years with my current organization, but am considering applying for a more advanced position with other organizations. Given the length of time for application/resume reviews, and multiple rounds of interviews, I estimate that were I offered a position elsewhere, I would be with my current organization two years - but could accept a position shortly after. Is this advisable, or should I wait to begin the job search process until formally reaching two years?


Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth

Waiting is always good choice, if you can, you will enhance your work experience and the length of service will not be an issue. But, accepting a new position, shortly after completing two years with your current employer is an acceptable practice as well.

The question of the two-year requirement is one that is often asked and contemplated by many. Moreover, members will review the guideline this year (2017) as part of Tenet 4 revision process. So, we invite your thoughts and opinions on the matter.

The guideline on length of service was added in 1972, so that municipalities could count on members to stay a minimum amount of time, and so there could be management stability in within organizations. Furthermore, the guideline addresses the reality that the recruitment process is costly and time consuming. Members should take seriously that entities make investments during the hiring process and there should be some consideration in remaining for period to make contributions to the organization.

Be prepared that some perspective employers may ask you why are you looking at positions before your current tenure is completed. You should be ready to answer this and note your career progression thus, far and the why?

It is understandable that new positions can look tempting, so use your best judgement to do the right thing for yourself and your community. Completing your service is important, but if you are in an area with limited advancement opportunities the exception below may apply if this not a pattern.

Exceptions to the two-year guideline are limited to special circumstances: a person is asked to leave by the appointing authority, the appointing authority doesn’t honor conditions of employment, or severe personal problems arise. The ICMA Committee on Professional Conduct advises that the two-year tenure may be waived where there has been an agreement reached during the hiring process between a manager and a member in transition, assistant, or department head that the individual may leave before the end of the two years for career advancement purposes. In this situation, there must also be no pattern of short tenures for the waiver to apply.

Here is the guideline in the Code of Ethics that covers length of service.

Tenet 4. Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interests of all of the people.

Length of Service. A minimum of two years generally is considered necessary in order to render a professional service to the local government. A short tenure should be the exception rather than a recurring experience. However, under special circumstances, it may be in the best interests of the local government and the member to separate in a shorter time. Examples of such circumstances would include refusal of the appointing authority to honor commitments concerning conditions of employment, a vote of no confidence in the member, or severe personal problems. It is the responsibility of an applicant for a position to ascertain conditions of employment. Inadequately determining terms of employment prior to arrival does not justify premature termination.

I am glad to talk with you confidentially about the specifics of your situation, if that would be helpful.

Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth, Ethics Advisor
(202) 962-3513

Kenneth Decker

Tenet 4 is based on "time served" (if you'll pardon the phrase). I don't think beginning the search process before your two-year anniversary will result in sanctions, but as Michelle notes, you can expect questions from prospective employers. Think of "short stays" a bit like fender benders. One or two over an entire driving career isn't going to raise eyebrows. Three or more... people are going to wonder if you have terrible luck or are a bad driver. Good luck.

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23 Jan 17
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25 Jan 17

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