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The 5 Agencies with the Most Out of Touch Senior Leadership

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The growing disconnect between the SES and the rest is real—and growing. The Partnership for Public Service released data in mid-April showing that, government-wide, members of the SES are more positive than other employees, scoring 18.6 points higher in the annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, with respect to job satisfaction and commitment.

This widening gap in satisfaction tells us where leaders in the federal government are most out of touch with what’s happening on the ground in their organizations. The gap was lowest—meaning, where the SES and other employees had the most similar job satisfaction scores—at the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, Social Security Administration, Department of Justice, Department of Veterans Affairs and NASA.

The gap between the SES and the rest—that is, where the SES and other employees were found to be most out of touch with respect to job satisfaction—was highest at the following five organizations:

Most Out of Touch Senior Leadership

  1. Department of Homeland Security (Gap: 26.0)
  2. Department of Agriculture (Gap: 24.2)
  3. Department of the Navy (Gap: 23.2)
  4. Department of the Air Force (Gap: 21.4)
  5. Department of Transportation (Gap: 20.3)

Lara Shane of the Partnership for Public Service recently wrote on Excellence in Government that the difference between the SES and other employees have grown increasingly stark. 

There was at least a 20-point gap between senior executives and other employees on four out of 10 workplace categories the Partnership and Deloitte rank in Best Places to Work, including performance based rewards and advancement, leadership, support for diversity and strategic management. There was an alarming 46.5-point gap on the survey question, “Promotions in my work unit are based on merit,” with close to 80 percent of senior executives agreeing with the statement in contrast to only 30 percent of all other employees. 

Senior executives and their employees were more aligned on issues such as pay and work/life balance, but those are also the two categories members of the SES gave the lowest marks to. On two of the questions in the work/life balance category, “My workload is reasonable,” and I have sufficient resources to get my job done,” employees were slightly more positive than senior executives. These were the only questions in the 84-question survey where SES members had a lower score than all other employees.

Read the full report here (pdf) and find more information about the best places to work in the federal government below:

Do you work at any of these agencies? Do the rankings seem accurate? Share in the comments. 

Find more information at and see how your agency performed. 

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Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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