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!
Show Comments
The Republicans debate Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the next debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote.
New Hampshire polling averages
Polling in New Hampshire has typically been volatile after Iowa's caucuses, but Bernie Sanders, from its neighboring state Vermont, has been holding a lead over Hillary Clinton.
55% 38%
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 6: GOP debate

on ABC News, in Manchester, N.H.

Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Campaign 2016
State of the race

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.