Poll: Half the Federal Workforce Says They Might Leave Government

Pay freeze, fed-bashing and lure of private-sector salaries among the reasons.

Fifty percent of federal employees are mulling a career switch, according to a small, online poll released Thursday. The reasons, not surprisingly, include frustration over the three-year pay freeze, political attacks on the government workforce and an expectation of higher salaries in the private sector.

The PulsePoll survey of 370 civilian and defense agency employees by Market Connections Inc. and FierceGovernmentIt also documented concern about a “brain drain” of experienced employees that could crimp effective pursuit of agency missions.

“It is clear that the recent political environment and agency staffing practices are affecting federal morale,” said Lisa Dezzutti, president and CEO of Market Connections. “We could see serious repercussions on mission-critical work as a result of pay and hiring freezes, lack of resources and 50 percent of the workforce considering leaving government.”

Some 63 percent of online respondents said their agencies have frozen wages in the past 12 months; 59 percent said their agencies are not replacing workers who leave; 49 percent cited a lack of resources to do their job properly; and 39 percent say mission-critical work is not getting done because of staff reductions.

Of the reasons respondents said they would consider leaving government, the top cited was the pay freeze (44 percent), followed by the frustrating political environment (41 percent) and the hunt for a higher salary (34 percent).

Civilian agency employees tended to be more frustrated by the political climate, while defense agency workers were most bothered by furloughs and the October 2013 government shutdown.

Fully 78 percent of respondents said the brain drain will harm mission fulfillment, with 61 percent saying they believe the government lacks the young talent to make up for the lost expertise.  

(Image via photoinnovation/