Despite positive feedback at some agencies, job satisfaction across the government has hit its lowest point in almost a decade. Just 52.9 percent of employees at the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, for example, are satisfied with their jobs, making it the lowest-ranked large agency, followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The seventh annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings pose a challenge for the Obama administration as President Obama, who pledged to reinvigorate federal work and make government “cool again,” embarks on a second term.
Even workers at layoff-battered private companies are more optimistic than government employees, who historically have had far more job security, the survey by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service found.
Still, most federal workers say they are committed to the missions of their agencies.
“We work for a horrible agency, but we do great work,” said Ricky D. McCoy, a recently fired transportation security officer at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and former president of Local 777 of the American Federation of Government Employees. Just 32 percent of employees at the Transportation Security Administration, part of DHS, are satisfied with their pay, which is among the lowest in the government.
McCoy said he expects the TSA’s first collective-bargaining agreement, signed in November, to improve morale. “We’re hopeful now that things will turn in our direction,” he said.
DHS, which was created after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has suffered from high turnover in top jobs. Spokeswoman Marsha Catron said leaders are “focused on continuing to improve employee engagement” with better communication from managers, training and rewards for good work.
But in some corners of the government, workers are happy. Employees at NASA, which ranks as the best place to work in the government, give high marks to leaders and supervisors and a culture that encourages telework. Most of all, they value their mission to continue space exploration even as the 30-year-old shuttle program was retired last year and the transition to new deep-space rockets has been slow.
“Our future was not as clear when people said goodbye to the shuttle,’’ said Jeri Buchholz, NASA’s personnel director. “But people rolled into new projects. They knew there really was a future in space exploration.” And no one lost their job.
Among large agencies, the intelligence community came in second, followed by the State Department, the Commerce Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The small U.S. Army Audit Agency logged the highest score, with 85.7 percent of its workforce reporting good things about their positions and bucking a troubling trend.