Among small agencies, the Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, held on to its first-place ranking from 2011, with 84.3 percent reporting satisfaction.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative ranks as the worst small agency, at 32.7 percent. Former employees said its sense of mission was eroded by an ambivalent attitude toward free trade early in the Obama administration and during the economic crisis. Views of the agency’s leaders plummeted 18.9 percentage points over 2011.
Although 77.3 percent of government employees say they value their agencies’ missions, that support dropped slightly over 2011.
The Department of Veterans Affairs ranked 18th out of 19 large agencies. “We have a lot of issues and problems,” said Max Collier, assistant director of a VA community liaison program. “The VA is not as transparent as it should be. We haven’t had a pay raise in, what, three years now? To work here, you have to have a passion for helping veterans.”
He gestured to a plaque on the wall outside VA’s headquarters in downtown Washington displaying Abraham Lincoln’s famous words: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
“We’re not making chocolate bars here, we’re taking care of veterans,” Collier said.
Department results within agencies varied. The Commerce Department, for example, took the fourth spot among large agencies, with 80.3 percent of employees at the Patent and Trademark Office saying they’re happy, the result of a reduced backlog of applications and teleworking. But Commerce’s Office of the Inspector General ranked second from last among small departments, at 37.2 percent.
John Berry, the government’s personnel chief, said it’s critical that managers pay attention to the survey results, given the fiscal challenges they may face.
“The government is likely to be on a pretty strict diet for the foreseeable future in terms of resources,” he said. “We are encouraging every agency to dive into their results and pay attention to them.”
Josh Hicks, Howard Schneider and Steve Vogel contributed to this report.