Senior Execs and Their Employees Don’t See Eye-to-Eye on Promotions


High-level managers in federal government are significantly more satisfied with their jobs than the rest of the workforce, according to a new report.

Members of the Senior Executive Service averaged an index score of 82.6 out of 100 in overall job satisfaction, according to the Partnership for Public Service survey, while all other federal workers averaged a score of just 64.

“It is understandable that senior executives may have more positive perceptions of the workplace than all other employees because they have advanced to the highest levels of the organization and are the ones making many of the day-to-day decisions,” the Partnership wrote, “creating a vision and enjoying more autonomy.”

The largest gap between senior executives and all other feds was on the question of whether promotions were based on merit. Top managers averaged 46.5 points higher than the rest of the federal workforce in saying promotions were well deserved.

Rank-and-file federal employees agreed with their managers most closely on issues related to pay and workload. The rank-and-file workers had a higher index score than executives on having sufficient resources to get the job done and sustaining a reasonable workload. SES employees outpaced their workers by only 5.1 points on the issue of pay satisfaction. Male executives were, on average, 5 percent happier with their pay than their female counterparts.

Top executives were the happiest at the Navy, State Department and NASA, according to the survey. They were least happy at the Commerce Department, Veterans Affairs Department and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  

SES workers are largely responsible for addressing concerns raised in the Federal Viewpoint Survey -- which the Partnership used to compile its data -- but only about half of the executives said the information would be used to improve their agency.

The Partnership said its findings point out problems high-level managers are missing. It recommended making employee engagement a factor in performance evaluations for SES members, which should include empowering and encouraging employees to solve work environment problems. Agency leadership should also identify practices at other organizations that have lowered the gap between manager-employee perceptions.

“Top agency executives must do a better job of understanding the issues that affect employees and take steps to engage the workers, to listen to what they have to say and to make changes that will have a positive impact on accomplishing the organization’s mission as efficiently and effectively as possible,” the Partnership said. 

(Image via StockThings/

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.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


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