SESers work long hours, like their jobs, poll finds

amaxwell@govexec.com

The typical senior career civil servant is a pro-government Democrat or independent, has been in his or her job for more than 20 years and puts in more than 50 hours a week at work.

Nevertheless, 94 percent of members of the Senior Executive Service say they are satisfied with their jobs, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press in association with National Journal. And 68 percent said they are satisfied with the amount of time they have for their personal lives.

The survey polled more than 300 high-ranking government officials, including 151 members of the Senior Executive Service, 81 members of Congress and 98 presidential appointees.

Between 56 percent and 64 percent in each group said they are "very satisfied" with their jobs, which is comparable to the 53 percent of high-income, college-educated Americans who say they are very satisfied with their work.

More than 40 percent of SESers surveyed said they worked between 60 and 69 hours per week. But workaholism is even more rampant among political appointees and on Capitol Hill. Seventy percent of members of Congress said they spend at least 70 hours a week working, while 40 percent of the presidential nominees said they put in equally long hours.

Of their time at work, 51 percent of SESers say they spend too much of it doing administrative tasks, 40 percent say they devote too many hours to responding to congressional requests and 58 percent said they have too little time for policy planning.

Officials did say, however, that the advent of new technologies like e-mail and the Internet has helped them do their jobs more efficiently. Among government's top officials, SES members are leading the way in Internet use, with fifty-one percent saying they use go online to get information about current events, public issues and politics.

All three groups of federal officials surveyed were generally satisfied with their salaries. Eighty percent of SESers said they were satisfied with their paychecks, while 18 percent were dissatisfied. Members of Congress responded similarly, but 42 percent of the presidential appointees surveyed said they were dissatisfied with their salaries.

On the political scale, 42 percent of senior civil servants said they were Democrats, while only 17 percent reported they were Republicans. More than half of SESers said they were moderates, while 27 percent classified themselves as liberal and 18 percent as conservative.

Still, government's top career officials don't express unlimited faith in their employer. Almost 60 percent of SESers said that government has the right priorities, but runs programs inefficiently.

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