Your Boss Has a Much Rosier View of the Workplace Than You Do

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Senior executives are much more likely than their employees to believe that job promotions and awards are based on merit and performance, according to a new analysis of government data.

A whopping 79 percent of senior executives believed that promotions in their offices were fair, compared to only 29.9 percent of other employees; a similar gap existed between the two groups when they were asked whether recognition for a job well done was rooted in good performance, the nonprofit the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte Consulting LLP found through a review of the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

While the findings might be unsurprising – members of the Senior Executive Service have more authority, influence and typically (though not always) earn more than other career employees – the disparate views of performance, rewards and overall fairness in the workplace are cause for concern, PPS said.

“While career executives have greater overall job and workplace satisfaction than their employees, the gap in some instances doubles when it comes to performance management,” stated the analysis. “This big divide suggests that senior executives need to take steps to address this divergence of views if they expect to connect with and motivate their workforce.”

The discrepancy in perspectives between the two groups also was noteworthy (though again, unsurprising) on the thorny issue of dealing with poor performers. Sixty-eight percent of SESers agreed with the statement “In my work unit, steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve,” while 26 percent of the rank-and-file believed that to be true.

Some agencies, including the Government Accountability Office and the Labor Department, are trying to rethink their approaches to performance management and training to help bridge the gulf in viewpoints and create more effective leaders, according to PPS. The government’s watchdog, for instance, is putting less emphasis on the “administrative burdens of a time-consuming year-end review process” and more on “meaningful” activities, such as coaching and regular conversations between employees and managers. Training new senior executives paid off for Labor in the form of better scores in the 2014 FEVS and a higher ranking in the Partnership’s 2014 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, according to the analysis. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in November 2013 launched a nine-month training program to help school new SESers in communications, human resources, labor relations, procurement and other topics that career leaders need to learn to be effective.

In fact, training outranked pay as “significantly influencing satisfaction and commitment” among senior executives who had been in government less than a decade, the Partnership found, another difference between that group and the rest of the workforce, which rated pay higher on the job satisfaction scale, in the last two federal employee viewpoint surveys. However, both senior executives and employees governmentwide said effective leadership was the most important factor in job satisfaction.

For a list of where the happiest (and not so happy) senior executives work, click here.

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