Defense Department file photo

Defense Civilians Are Losing Faith in Senior Management

Employees view their immediate supervisors much more positively, latest survey shows.

Defense Department civilian employees are losing faith in their senior leaders, according to new data released by the department.

Fifty-three percent of Defense workers who responded to the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey agreed that their organization’s top leaders “maintain high standards of honesty and integrity,” compared to 56 percent in 2013. Forty percent said their senior leadership generated “high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce,” compared to 43 percent who agreed with that statement last year. And the number of respondents who said they felt a “high level of respect” for their organization’s top tier fell two percentage points from 2013 to 2014.

Defense managers also received lower marks from respondents in this year’s survey on their ability to effectively communicate agency goals, priorities and specific projects. But that sentiment didn’t seem to translate when respondents were asked about their immediate supervisors: 70 percent said they thought their bosses were doing a good job overall, up slightly from 2013.

The department just released its results from the 2014 FEV survey; the Office of Personnel Management is expected to release the full governmentwide results later this fall.

Overall, responses from Defense employees to the 84-question survey this year remained roughly the same, or slightly more negative, than in 2013. Employees showed the same high level of enthusiasm for the importance of their work (89 percent), but they also expressed dissatisfaction in a number of areas, including the fairness of promotions, dealing with poor performers, and whether their agency tended to reward creativity and innovation. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they would recommend their organization as a good place to work, compared to 62 percent in 2013.

“DoD results show employees remain very positive about their work, jobs, and mission, and appreciate the work/life programs – especially alternative work schedules and the health and wellness programs,” said Paige Hinkle-Bowles, deputy assistant secretary for civilian personnel policy, in a memorandum accompanying the data. “Challenges were found in performance management, training and development, and resource-related issues, such as people, material and budget.”

Respondents were slightly happier with their pay this year, with 55 percent saying they were satisfied, compared to 53 percent in 2013. That could be because the three-year pay freeze on civilians ended in 2014.

While Defense employees expressed high satisfaction with work/life programs in their agencies, including telework, alternative work schedules, and child care programs, most said they do not – or cannot -- take advantage of them. For instance, a whopping 78 percent of respondents said they don’t telework for one of the following reasons: they have to be physically present on the job, they don’t have the proper technical equipment, their supervisor hasn’t approved them for telework even though they are eligible, or they simply choose not to.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they did not participate in alternative work schedules because they opted not to, or it was not an available option. Just 5 percent of respondents said they used available child care programs, including daycare and parenting classes.

The 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, completed by 75,025 Defense civilian employees, had a response rate of 35.3 percent. Defense administered it between April 29 and June 13 of this year.