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:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


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