Survey says: Federal workers are glad to have their jobs

By Ed O'Keefe and Joe Davidson
Monday, July 12, 2010

In these times of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, federal workers are continuing a trend of job satisfaction, giving the Obama administration good marks for its leadership of agencies though remaining skeptical on a key point: that career advancement in the government is based on merit.

And in an ironic turn, the Office of Management and Budget, which is helping to lead the administration's pledge to reinvigorate the federal workforce, lost ground among its own employees on issues of leadership and job satisfaction.

The employee opinions are in the largest-ever survey of the federal workforce, and the first to be conducted by the Obama administration.

Three-quarters of respondents said they feel a sense of personal accomplishment, 8 in 10 like the work they do, and more than 90 percent think it is important. In addition, two-thirds of respondents said they're satisfied with their pay.

"Like everybody who has a job right now, they're grateful for it," said John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, which conducted the survey. OPM has conducted the review every other year since 2002 and plans to do so annually from now on.

Its findings, set for release Monday, include responses from a little more than half of the 500,000 workers who received copies of the survey in February and March.

"I think it just shows that people appreciate their service and they're fortunate to have good employment," Berry added.

More than half of respondents, 56 percent, said they have a high level of respect for agency leadership, a four-point climb from 2008. Leaders also scored higher for motivating their staffs and communicating an agency's mission. And more than two-thirds said their performance is fairly evaluated.

But employees also see pitfalls.

Just over one-third of workers said they think promotions are based on merit. And though most are satisfied with their pay, they are less happy with some benefits, especially child-care and elder-care options. In addition, things might be heading south among workers. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they're able to cooperate with colleagues to complete their job, but the question scored nine points lower than two years ago.

OMB's survey results were especially surprising.

The survey asked workers to rate supervisors, their agency's overall improvement, job training opportunities and job satisfaction in order to measure progress government-wide and at 82 agencies. OMB fell in each area.

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