Sean Locke Photography/

‘Recognition’ Is the Operative Word as We Salute Public Service

A simple thank you goes a long way in retaining executive talent.

While Government Executive’s recent article on why senior executives leave government highlights pay insufficiencies in the executive federal workforce, it is also important to look at the other factors leading to employee departures—including the lack of acknowledgment for achievements.

For 30 years, the first week of May has been recognized as Public Service Recognition Week and has shone a light on the men and women who dedicate their lives to working on behalf of this nation at all levels of government.

The Senior Executives Association is proud to be a founding member of the Public Employees Roundtable, the coalition of government employee and good government groups that came together in the early 1980s to push back against anti-government sentiment and initiated Public Service Recognition Week. SEA remains an active member of the roundtable to this day.

Career executives have invested themselves in federal service and service to the American taxpayer, spending a substantial portion of their professional lives dedicated to managing and overseeing large, complex organizations and programs. Others are technical experts in their field and conduct groundbreaking research, and some have received the Nobel Prize in their field.

The importance of these career executives and their contributions to the effective functioning of our government is underscored every year by the recipients of the Presidential Rank Awards, where high performing Senior Executives and Senior Professionals are honored for their service and the accomplishments of the teams under their leadership. This year’s 24 Presidential Distinguished Rank Awardees once again went above and beyond, with their efforts and those of their teams collectively saving the government more than $32 billion.

So, while pay may be a large factor in the decision of some to exit the federal workforce, we cannot discount the profound impact of recognition and a simple “thank you for your work.”   Finally, we especially cannot discount the possible impact of sharing the accomplishments of public service with the American public so they might better understand and appreciate what government accomplishes on their behalf.

Carol Bonosaro is president of the Senior Executives Association.          

(Image via Sean Locke Photography/