Fed survey: Morale drops 2nd year in a row

The just-released annual federal Best Places to Work report shows a worrying trend: a drop among feds in their enthusiasm for the federal workplace for the second year in a row.

This year, the average employee’s rating of their agency dropped by 0.5 points, on a scale of 100, compared with 2018. The shift was minor, but combined with last year’s results, the troubling trendline is clear.

The report—based on Office of Personnel Management employee survey data analyzed by the Partnership for Public Service with partner organization BCG— explores survey results gleaned from thousands of employees across a wide range of federal workplaces.

It offers comparative scores of various aspects of each workplace—hence, identifying the “best” and “worst” agencies according to employee assessments—as well as a numerical score for each employee’s sense of engagement—numbers that are then averaged and used by management and government-watchers as an approximate measure of morale.

Among the largest agencies—starting with the top score—NASA, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the combined intelligence community agencies were ranked highest in engagement. In declining order of engagement score, the Social Security Administration, Department of the Air Force, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Homeland Security were judged by employees dead last.

This year’s document, according to the partnership, included data collected from over “490 federal agencies and subcomponents,” producing the widest-ranging coverage in the ranking report’s 14-year history.

“Our country is blessed with an extraordinary and highly resilient government workforce,” Max Stier, PPS’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “This year’s engagement dropped [only] modestly despite a tumultuous time for our nation’s public servants—a time when about 800,000 of the 2 million federal employees were affected by a lengthy government shutdown, when there were a number of critical leadership vacancies across the government, and as many agencies had to deal with a variety of political headwinds.”

PPS also pointed out that in eight out of 10 categories of employee assessment, small improvements actually occurred—a remarkable result to the study’s authors, in the face of so many problems and political “headwinds.”

PPS further analyzed the highlights of the survey in a brief blog post.

Reader comments

Sun, Jan 5, 2020

As a civilian DOD/DON, I share some of the views posted. The military have no concept of civilian leadership. The hiring is still the good-old-boy system. Human Trafficking for Labor to save on cost is an acceptable risk. My personal opinion only.

Mon, Dec 30, 2019

NIH morale problems come from corrupt and inept management who cover each others backs; pay each other large bonuses; pretend they are telecommuting when they are in vacation spots and only communicate by e mail intermittently. Then they have the power ego to write up people who are late for work due to unforeseen circumstances in which the employee does not have an option to explain. They hire their social cronies, ignore long-term productive employees for promotions; take bogus trips and think they are entitled to more perks than the working rank and file employees. Do America and NIH great again and terminate these minions since they are the ones solely responsible for the low morale. Low morale and constant stress and anxiety is a major factor in mental and cardiovascular issues among highly talented individuals. Management should be responsible for their actions entirely and back stabbing and bigotry should be eliminated along with their managers positions. The NIH director has ignored this for years, maybe it is time for new leadership from the top downwards.

Sat, Dec 28, 2019

Working for the Department of Agriculture this year was enough to make me leave after 10 years of public service. I used to believe in the mission of the Forest Service, now the crisis of leadership made me realize that my talents would contribute more productively to my profession elsewhere. And lo and behold, I found out that my skills were valued more competitively as well.

Sat, Dec 28, 2019

SSA is also a terrible agency to work for as mentioned in the article. The managers are very incompetent & don’t have clue about how to manage their staff. The management staff in my office manage/operates in total chaos & that is very much the normal. The Peter Principle is definitely true as it relates to SSA managers. The government should re-introduce a class on how to be an effective manager prior to placing incompetent managers & supervisors in positions. Hopefully this would mitigate grievances & EEO complaints but I seriously doubt if such a class would ever happen again.

Fri, Dec 27, 2019 Jon

This is why we need to strengthen federal unions not attack them.

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