Morale among feds drops to lowest level in a decade

By Brittany Ballenstedt

December 13, 2012

Federal employee job satisfaction has hit its lowest level in nearly 10 years and continues to trail that of private sector employee satisfaction, which has remained relatively constant, according to the new Best Places to Work in the FederalGovernment rankings by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service andDeloitte.    

The results showed a governmentwide employee satisfaction score of 60.8 out of 100, the lowest point since 2003, when the rankings first launched. That represents a 5 percent decrease from 2011 and is the largest change in the history of the rankings. At the same time, private sector employee satisfaction has maintained a score of 70 out of 100,according to Hay Group.

“The declining job satisfaction levels across the federal government come during turbulent times, with employees buffeted by many uncertainties and feeling the effects of hiring slowdowns, buyouts, increased retirements, budget constraints and a two-and-a-half year pay freeze that runs until the spring of 2013,” the report states.

The data also show a decline in each of the other 10 workplace categories ranked by the Partnership and Deloitte. Satisfaction with pay, for example, showed the most significant drop, falling 4.1 points between 2011 and 2012 and 3.9 points between 2010 and 2011. Satisfaction with rewards and advancement also showed a steep decrease, falling 2.5 percent from 2011. Other categories – like teamwork, leadership, work-life balance and support for diversity – experienced slight declines among feds.

Of the 33 large agencies, NASA received the highest satisfaction score of 72.8 out of 100. Other top large agencies were the intelligence community (70.8), State (68.2) and Commerce (67.9) departments, the Environmental Protection Agency (67.6) and the Social Security Administration (66.4).

The 2012 rankings mark the first year the Partnership included medium-sized agencies, many of which were previously included in the large agency category. Among medium-size agencies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (83.3), Government Accountability Office (75.7), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (75.5) and Smithsonian Institution (75.5) took the top spots.

Among small agencies, the Surface Transportation Board ranked first for the fourth survey in a row. Other top-ranked small agencies were the Congressional Budget Office (84.2), the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (82.4) and the PeaceCorps (81.5).

The Homeland Security (52.9) and Veterans Affairs (56.7) departments were the lowest rated large agencies, while the National Archives and Records Administration (47.4) and Broadcasting Board of Governors (46.8) also ranked at the bottom among medium-size agencies. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (34.7) and the Federal Maritime Commission (32.7) were ranked at the bottom among small agencies and received the lowest satisfaction scores among all federal agencies.

Despite the overall decline in federal employee satisfaction, a few agencies actually saw increases in employee satisfaction. The Office of Management and Budget, for example, was the most improved agency, with employee satisfaction increasing 13.3 points since 2011. The Transportation Department also defied the governmentwide trend, with employee satisfaction rising 4.1 points over 2011 levels.

“These agencies prove that even in the most challenging climates it is possible to improve employee engagement,” the report states.

Is satisfaction with your federal job at an all-time low? Do better satisfaction and hiring prospects in the private sector, particularlyfor IT workers, have you wanting to jump ship?

By Brittany Ballenstedt

December 13, 2012