The Washington Post

Survey: Federal workers’ job satisfaction drops

Federal employees protest the partial shutdown outside the McNamara Federal Building on Oct. 10 in Detroit. (Steve Perez/AP)

Salary freezes, continuing budget cuts and furloughs have eroded morale among federal employees so deeply that many do not recommend the government as a good place to work, a survey released Friday found.

The vast majority of employees think that the work they do is valuable and look for ways to do their jobs better. But the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, which took effect in March, have helped push already low job satisfaction to its lowest point since 2010, according to the government’s Employee Viewpoint Survey.

The survey “shows a strong and resolute group of employees who are devoted to their agency and country,” Katherine Archuleta, the newly confirmed director of the Office of Personnel Management, wrote in the survey’s conclusion, “but are growing weary due to current policies and practices affecting agency operations and resources.”

She expressed alarm at the long-term implications for recruiting and keeping top talent at agencies losing veteran employees to retirement and the private sector.

“Without a more predictable and responsible budget situation, we risk losing our most talented employees, as well as hurting our ability to recruit top talent for the future,” Archuleta wrote of the survey results, which were posted on the OPM’s Web site.

The 16-day government shutdown, which started Oct. 1, was not factored into the views shared by 376,577 employees. The responses were given in April through June, months before Congress failed to reach a stopgap budget and it shut down the government, furloughing almost half the workforce.

More than 90 percent of employees said that their work is important and that they would put in extra effort to get a job done. But the effects of sequestration are palpable at almost every agency, the survey found: Only 44 percent of employees said they had sufficient resources to do their jobs, compared with 48 percent last year and 50 percent in 2010. And only half said their agencies provided enough training, an area where the government has cut spending dramatically.

Government-wide scores on pay, opportunities for advancement, whether innovation is encouraged and other markers of how employees feel about their jobs dropped in almost every category over last year’s survey.

Only 63 percent said they would recommend their agency as a good place to work, down from 67 percent last year. Employees also have deep concerns about compensation after three years of salary freezes, with 54 percent saying they were satisfied with their earnings, a drop of five percentage points from last year and 12 points from 2010.

Only 19 percent agreed that pay raises are commensurate with how well they do their jobs.

“These are dismal numbers, and anyone concerned with the ability of our government to recruit and retain the thoughtful, innovative and dedicated people we need to take on challenges now and in the future should be alarmed,” Colleen E. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement.

Managers are supposed to use the results to identify problems and come up with ideas for improvement. The Agriculture Department, for example, responded to concerns in 2012 that not enough employees were eligible to telework; the agency’s scores in this area improved markedly.

The Partnership for Public Service uses the survey to compile its “Best Places to Work” rankings, set for release in December.

The government dived deeper into demographic data it received for a second year about veterans, disabled, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. Veterans make up 28 percent of the workforce, gays and lesbians 2.7 percent, and the disabled 13 percent.

The job satisfaction of the groups lags below their non-
veteran, straight and non-
disabled colleagues.

The survey also highlighted demographic differences in job satisfaction among the government’s oldest and youngest employees. Those born in 1945 or earlier — a tiny fraction of the workforce — had the highest morale overall, while those born between 1965 and 1980 were least satisfied.

Telework continued to be a bright spot, with 76 percent of employees reporting satisfaction with their agencies’ policies. Supervisors’ growing flexibility with balancing work and home life for their staffs has proven to be a good alternative to bonuses and other financial incentives that are disappearing, the survey found.

Eighty percent of those surveyed said their supervisors or team leaders treated them with respect, up from 79 percent last year.

There is no data for 2011, because the survey was traditionally done every two years and last year became an annual survey.

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
We'll have half a million voters in South Carolina. I can shake a lot of hands, but I can't shake that many.
Sen. Marco Rubio, speaking to a group of reporters about his strategy to regain support after a poor performance in the last debate
Fact Checker
Sanders’s claim that Clinton objected to meeting with ‘our enemies’
Sanders said that Clinton was critical of Obama in 2008 for suggesting meeting with Iran. In fact, Clinton and Obama differed over whether to set preconditions, not about meeting with enemies. Once in office, Obama followed the course suggested by Clinton, abandoning an earlier position as unrealistic.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.