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Fewer Senior Executives Are Getting Bonuses, And They’re Not Happy About It

Lack of performance awards is hurting morale and some are considering demotions or leaving government, study finds.

More than half of senior executives in federal government either did not receive or do not know the status of their performance awards in fiscal 2013, according to a new report.

The Senior Executives Association survey found many members of the Senior Executive Service were considering demotions to General Schedule 14 or 15 jobs, or leaving public service altogether as a result of not receiving bonuses. The award cutbacks have come after the Obama administration issued directives requiring agencies to reduce spending on bonuses.

A slight majority of respondents also said the morale of senior executives at their agencies was low or very low. Many of the top-line managers blamed political appointees for showing “zero respect” to the career executives.

The Veterans Affairs Department -- where Congress has repeatedly threatened to eliminate bonuses altogether -- several components of the Defense Department and the Treasury Department ranked as the agencies with the lowest morale.

More than one third of survey participants were dissatisfied with the performance appraisal process. Executives complained their reviews took too long to complete and decisions on awards were unnecessarily dragged out. SES and Senior Professional employees do not receive length-of-service pay increases, locality pay or overtime.

A majority of those who did receive a performance award earned between 5 percent and 6 percent of their salaries. Fewer than three out of every 100 executives received more than 10 percent.

SESers used the survey to vent their frustrations.

“I have received either Outstanding or Exceeded Expectations during my seven-year SES tenure; never had a pay raise and no bonuses for the last three years,” one executive wrote. “I hope to leave federal employment very soon.”

SEA said the government risks turmoil in the workforce if Congress and the administration do not disrupt the current trend soon. 

“The overall portrait of today’s career executive workforce reflects a shifting landscape of risk and rewards -- one that has threatening implications for talent maintenance within the ranks as well as the ability to continue to effectively manage large-scale, highly complex federal programs,” SEA wrote of its findings.

The advocacy group said Obama and lawmakers should reinstitute the Presidential Rank Awards, undo cuts to bonus pools and pass regulatory reform to overhaul the pay system for senior executives.

SEA surveyed more than 400 federal executives during the week Feb. 13. 

(Image via Odua Images/Shutterstock.com)

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