Three-fourths of the federal workers interviewed in a new Washington Post survey give President Reagan negative ratings as manager of the federal bureaucracy. Forty-four percent called the president a "poor" manager and another 32 percent said he is "not so good."
Reagan does not fare well even among bureaucrats who identified themselves as Republicans. Slightly more than half--52 percent--rate him poor or not so good. Seventy-six percent of those who call themselves independents give Reagan a negative rating as a manager, as do 86 percent of those who said they were Democrats.
A GS13 at the Energy Department said, "Reagan has disabled government, so that there is more mismanagement."
The president fared worse than his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, although Carter also generally received negative reviews. Fifty-two percent rated Carter as a "poor" or "not so good" manager. That figure climbed to 67 percent among Republican federal workers and dropped to 36 percent among Democrats.
The Post survey was based on a random sampling of employes listed in the telephone books of six agencies--the Health and Human Services, Commerce, Interior, Transportation and Energy departments and the Office of Personnel Management. Forty-two percent of the respondents said they were Democrats, 41 percent independents, and 13 percent Republicans.
Forty-five percent of those surveyed at the six agencies said RIFs and furloughs were not being handled well. Thirty percent said they were being handled about as well as could be expected.
Twenty-nine percent said they had seen evidence that RIFs had been made to achieve political goals, but 52 percent said they had seen no such evidence.
A Coast Guard employe noted, "I'd give Reagan an 'A' for effort, but he lacks human interest."
Black federal workers, like blacks in the general population, tended to rate Reagan negatively, with 9 out of 10 giving him "poor" or "not so good" ratings as a manager.
Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they disapproved of the way Reagan was handling his job as president and 40 percent of that group registered strong disapproval.
Overall, the federal workers rated the head of their department higher than they did the president. Still, 43 percent disapproved of the way their department head handled his job, while 40 percent approved.
When it came to grading their agency's political appointees, 6 percent gave them an "A," 14 percent a "B," 23 percent a "C," 13 percent a "D" and 15 percent an "F."
Career supervisors received more favorable ratings. Twenty-one percent of the respondents gave them an "A," 33 percent a "B," 28 percent a "C," 8 percent a "D" and 6 percent an "F."
An analyst at Interior, describing the changes since Reagan took office, said, "There's longer decision-making by top officials. The policies of the career staff are not adopted as often."
Asked what they thought about the size of the federal work force, excluding the Defense Department, 35 percent said the government has the right number of employes, 21 percent thought there were too many and 25 percent thought there were too few. Eighteen percent said they didn't know.
When it came to their own agency, 42 percent thought it had the right number of employes but 39 percent thought there were too few. Eleven percent said there were too many and 8 percent had no opinion.
Asked to comment on the state of the federal bureaucracy, respondents sometimes had plenty to say.
"I think that the bureaucrats as a whole may be unfairly judged by the general public because as a general rule the people in it are equally dedicated as those in the public sector to do a good job," said a GS15 Energy Department official. "And if they don't succeed 100 percent of the time, they are labeled failures. They're not. Because people labeled the bureaucracy a failure, maybe Reagan has thought the bureaucracy is a failure. Yet it may be that what he's doing is good."
A regulation writer at HHS noted, "The bureaucracy is a brick wall. It has unnecessary waste and is filled with discontent and insecurity."
Added an Energy Department attorney: "The federal bureaucracy is in bad shape and getting worse. Blaming things on the federal bureaucracy tends to, basically, become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anybody decent is getting out, somebody has to do the work. It will take a long time to rebuild . . . . "