More than 40 percent of Senior Executive Service members who left their posts last year cited the political environment as one of the major reasons for their departure, according to a new report.
For the last three years, the Office of Personnel Management has surveyed government employees leaving the SES workforce, which fills thousands of executive positions at federal agencies just below presidential appointees.
The most recent survey includes responses from 212 SES members from a variety of agencies. Data was collected between August 2015 and July 2016, so it does not include anyone who left their agencies during the Trump administration.
» Get the best federal news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.
Similar to previous years, most employees gave up their posts so they could retire. OPM found 61 percent of respondents said they planned to leave the workforce altogether. Of the SES members who planned to continue working, 35 percent found private sector jobs outside of government contracting. An additional 35 percent planned to work for non-profits, government contractors or become self-employed.
A majority of people leaving the SES highlighted problems with the work environment as a major factor in their departure, including 62 percent of those who planned to retire and 65 percent of non-retirees. The most commonly named issues were the political environment, organizational culture, senior leadership and lack of autonomy.
The political environment was a significant factor in 42 percent of departures in the most recent survey, down from 60 percent two years ago.
Still, almost two-thirds of respondents told OPM they would recommend joining the SES, with many saying they found their work rewarding and impactful. The most common complaints among the 26 percent of people with a negative impression of SES were toxic political environments, insufficient pay and excessive bureaucracy.
OPM also asked executives leaving the SES for other jobs what it would take to make them want to stay. Almost 40 percent said they’d stick around if their pay increased, 28 percent wanted a change in their responsibilities, and 27 percent hoped for more autonomy in the workplace.