Government workers say they're more content -- except in the workplace

There will forever be debate between public- and private-sector employees about who's got the better gig: Private-sector employees say government workers get too-generous benefits; government workers say their private counterparts make more money. But who's happier?

Well, it's close, but public workers scored just slightly higher on their overall well-being scores, according to a new Gallup well-being survey. State and local government workers scored a 70.9 on their overall well-being, with federal workers and non-government workers scoring 69.9 and 68.7, respectively.

The gap widens, however, on individual measures, with government employees proving more content than their private counterparts with their emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors and access to the basics, such as clean water, medicine and affordable fruits and vegetables.

On how they rate their work environment, federal employees scored a 42.2, while their state and local government and non-government counterparts scored between 47.8 (local government) and 48.7 (non government).

Why are federal employees less happy at work? They get no respect: 50.8 percent of federal workers feel their supervisor treats them as a partner, almost 7 points lower than non-government workers. State workers fared the best, with 58 percent saying their supervisor treated them like a partner. Federal employees also scored lower when asked whether they felt they used their strengths at work and whether they had an open and trusting environment.

Gallup's conclusion: "For leaders of federal agencies, therefore, encouraging partnerships between managers and employees represents a key opportunity area for improving their labor force's wellbeing."

The survey is based 183,992 telephone interviews with working national adults aged 18 and older conducted from January 2 through December 30, 2010. The interviews conducted were part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. There is a 95 percent confidence interval that the margin of sampling error is ±0.2 percentage points, thought he maximum sampling error for government employee groups is about ±1 percentage point. The survey includes 7,486 federal employee, 14,132 state employee, and 11,153 local employee respondents in the sample. Active duty military personnel were excluded from the definition of federal employees.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.