Senior Execs and Their Employees Don’t See Eye-to-Eye on Promotions

Overall, SES members much happier with their jobs than rank-and-file feds.

High-level managers in federal government are significantly more satisfied with their jobs than the rest of the workforce, according to a new report.

Members of the Senior Executive Service averaged an index score of 82.6 out of 100 in overall job satisfaction, according to the Partnership for Public Service survey, while all other federal workers averaged a score of just 64.

“It is understandable that senior executives may have more positive perceptions of the workplace than all other employees because they have advanced to the highest levels of the organization and are the ones making many of the day-to-day decisions,” the Partnership wrote, “creating a vision and enjoying more autonomy.”

The largest gap between senior executives and all other feds was on the question of whether promotions were based on merit. Top managers averaged 46.5 points higher than the rest of the federal workforce in saying promotions were well deserved.

Rank-and-file federal employees agreed with their managers most closely on issues related to pay and workload. The rank-and-file workers had a higher index score than executives on having sufficient resources to get the job done and sustaining a reasonable workload. SES employees outpaced their workers by only 5.1 points on the issue of pay satisfaction. Male executives were, on average, 5 percent happier with their pay than their female counterparts.

Top executives were the happiest at the Navy, State Department and NASA, according to the survey. They were least happy at the Commerce Department, Veterans Affairs Department and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  

SES workers are largely responsible for addressing concerns raised in the Federal Viewpoint Survey -- which the Partnership used to compile its data -- but only about half of the executives said the information would be used to improve their agency.

The Partnership said its findings point out problems high-level managers are missing. It recommended making employee engagement a factor in performance evaluations for SES members, which should include empowering and encouraging employees to solve work environment problems. Agency leadership should also identify practices at other organizations that have lowered the gap between manager-employee perceptions.

“Top agency executives must do a better job of understanding the issues that affect employees and take steps to engage the workers, to listen to what they have to say and to make changes that will have a positive impact on accomplishing the organization’s mission as efficiently and effectively as possible,” the Partnership said. 

(Image via StockThings/

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