Federal and private industry workers share many of the same likes and dislikes about their jobs according to preliminary results of a new federal study. But civil servants express stronger reactions -- both positive and negative -- about themselves, their bosses and their work.
The above conclusions are the result of a new job survey Uncle Sam ordered (for $65,000) to find out how civil servants view their jobs. Federal officials are comparing it to a smaller study, made two years earlier, of work attitudes among private industry employes.
Although data from the government survey, conducted by Westinghouse, is still being analyzed, federal officials plan to repeat it in a year or two. The aim is to measure employe work attitudes before and after implementation of President Carter's sweeping "reforms" of government hiring, rewards, punishments and pay to its 2.9 million employes.
Those civil service reforms -- which won't be fully operational for months -- revise federal disciplinary rules, provide for a system of pay incentives (and withholding) for middle-level managers, and set up a new caste system, including big bonuses, for senior-grade civil servants.
The government questionnaire was sent to 14,000 federal workers in May 1979. About 25 percent of them were in the Washington area. More than 7 out of 10 responded, and returned the confidential questionnaires. Federal officials are comparing it with attitudes expressed by private industry workers in a survey commissioned by the Labor Department and made by the University of Michigan in 1977. It involved about 1,500 individuals. From the two surveys, Office of Personnel Management officials have concluded:
Both private and federal workers expressed general satisfaction with their jobs in about the same percentages.
Federal employes in the Washington area appeared unhappier with various aspects of their jobs than did U.S. civil servants doing similar work in other parts of the country.
A higher percentage of federal workers said they worked "very hard" than did private industry respondents, although the questions asked were slightly different.
Both federal and private industry workers complained that they did not get clear enough directions from bosses as to what is expected of them.
Both groups complained there was too little "feedback" from immediate supervisors as to whether they were performing their jobs satisfactorily.
Federal executives in the so-called supergrade levels expressed a higher degree of satisfaction with their pay than did middle-management workers. This surprised OPM officials who expected a greater degree of unrest from supergraders who tend to feel they are paid much less than their counterparts in private industry.
Middle-level managers aspiring to higher rank and higher paying jobs were much less satisfied with the fairness of executive selection methods than were those who were already executives. The only surprise there would be if anyone is surprised.
Civil servants indicated a higher degree of respect for the ability and dedication of their coworkers than did private industry employes.
In both groups about 8 to 10 workers said they were satisfied with, or liked their jobs, although the questions asked were different enough to make exact comparison unreliable.
Eighty-five percent of the federal workers here said they liked working in Washington. In other parts of the country 88 percent of the federal workers said they liked working wherever they were.
Seventy-five percent of the Washington area workers said they were satisfied with their jobs, 9 percent were undecided and 17 percent were dissatisfied.
Away from Washington, 81 percent of the civil servants expressed personal satisfaction with their jobs. 7 percent were undecided and 12 percent were dissatisfied.
[because of rounding, many of the totals do not add up to 100 percent in the survey].
Ironically, a majority of federal workers said they were not afraid to blow the whistle on wrongdoing in their agencies.
OPM officials said the survey indicates "substantial evidence that morale is high" in government, despite what people read in the newspapers. But they agree that the survey was made before various White House actions like the pay-parking order and the recent cap on federal pay had a major impact on employe attitudes.