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Top and bottom 5 federal employers; readers react

A story I recently wrote on the best and worst federal agencies for launching a career has gotten attention among civil servants, and none were shy about sharing what their career experiences had been -- for better or worse.

The “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government" report revealed that the Veterans Affairs Department, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NASA, the General Services Administration and the Social Security Administration were ranked the top five government agencies to launch a career. The bottom five agencies were the Transportation Department, the Agriculture Department, the Army, the Education Department, and the Housing and Urban Development Department.

One reader began with questioning the credibility of such surveys and said it would be difficult “to normalize a single level of satisfaction across the entire organization” due to the agencies’ large size.

“People working in the HR department, for example, might be thrilled with the agency and the senior leadership,” the reader wrote. “But people in the IT department might hate it just because senior manager doesn't understand their challenges. I would certainly never pick one agency over another on the basis of such as broad-based attitude check.”

Other readers agreed that some agencies are better than others, with one commenter saying he/she loved his/her federal employer because it offered plenty of opportunities; however, “I had one year of that special hell that comes when working for Satan, but I know how to work the system to find work I enjoyed.”

One reader called the Transportation Department “schizophrenic,” and used interesting analogy to describe the hiring practices at the agency.

“We don't want the best people; we want the best people we can get (and that bar is low -- we do the limbo around here, not the high jump). Still, you can thank God for that, otherwise there would be a mutiny (or a mass exodus of some sort),” that reader wrote.

Another reader recalled certain events during his/her time as a "young-ish (mid-30s) fed” at the Defense Department as “so soul-suckingly awful that I literally laughed when I was promoted.”

“The mentality of the older, more ‘seasoned’ GS14s and 15s in the organization was difficult to take,” the reader wrote. “One was literally retired in place, reading his Kindle in his cube throughout the day. When we asked for his help (because we were doing his job), he quite frankly said, "No."  …  I'm an IT contractor now, making 50% more than what I was making as a fed, with less responsibility and more job satisfaction. And guess what, I'm still serving. But not starving. Good luck, young feds. You're going to need it."

Even those who worked at agencies ranked highly by the report didn’t hold back on the criticism. One reader who wrote he/she worked for the VA’s IT department complained about upper management and its inability to work efficiently.

“[The director] has made so many detrimental decisions in the little time he has been running our shop that over 140 or more employees will be detailed out of their current jobs,” the reader wrote. “Is that satisfaction? NOT IN MY BOOK! Evidently, you did not poll those of us in VA's IT departments. It seems that the more idiotic crap management does in VA, [the more] they promote them.”

Here are the best and worst federal organizations to launch a government career, according to new employees age 30 and younger:

Best:
1. Veterans Affairs Department 
2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
3. NASA
4. General Services Administration
5. Social Security Administration

Worst:
1. Transportation Department 
2. Agriculture Department
3. Army
4. Education Department
5. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Sep 12, 2011 at 12:19 PM


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Reader comments

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 chasityclaire

I worked for SSA for nearly 8 years and loved it. There was those in management playing around daily with their power struggles and trying to belittle many other workers.If I had a chance to return to SSA, I would do so in a minute. I worked for the VA also for 4 years. They are almost too rigid in most offices about certain things since the laptop theft a few years ago where millions of veteran records were compromised. I had good coaches for the most part,but there are some out there in VA management who just love their power plays at the employee's expense. Management power plays and power struggles in all agencies makes and creates a hostile working environment for some who are really out there trying to do their job and do what they were hired to do, following all the rules, etc., The average employee "pays through the nose" thus creating a situation where their own self-esteem, energy, concentration and other factors really mess things up for the agency(s) involved. Favortism, clicks within management is the norm in most job situatons no matter where it is - many employees are already profiled by management -and it will show right away if management likes the employee or not - many employees feel lost,lonely forgotten and abandoned by management and the civil service system in general especially if they end up filing any form of grievance or EEOC complaint- those complaint systems really don't work for the good of the employee most of the time.

Wed, Apr 4, 2012 Raymond

I worked at the VA. All new employees take a test after 1 year on the job. I passed the test, and 3 of my colleagues failed. Guess what? I was the only one let go because of "low performance". I did my job, while the others socialized...I paid the price for sitting tight in my chair.They said my performance evaluations were "wrongly" designated as "satisfactory". By the way, they hired us with a written confirmation of the salary range. However, they changed the range after the budget freeze. All the veteran records are in paper form, and in very bad shape,in ripped folders, with no place to store them. There are no set rules to apply the law. Whoever has the most experience, gets to interpret the law! So I urge veterans to contest every decision made on their disability benefits.

Thu, Sep 15, 2011

The worst has to be Treasury, with 1/3 of all hires gone within 2 years. At IRS, employees are too fearful to answer surveys and many are "walking on eggshells." The nepotism and and corruption is out of control due to the fact that there's no oversight whatsoever. They misclassify career tenured employees as probationary for the sole purpose of abusing them and then denying their due process rights so that nothing can be done, even when every law is broken. I don't think any agency could be worse than Treasury is now - it is definitely the worst. Sad, because it was a good place when I started there 20 years ago.

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 Female Fed ICE

There are GS 13 supervisors in HR who have been "retired in place" doing nothing but counting the days until they retire,FOR THE PAST 2 1/2 YEARS! They get everyone else to do their jobs.

Tue, Sep 13, 2011

The USDA Department has too many dead beats in research. Why are you spending money in small places for high paid salaries, tvs, running and employees playing all day while they pretend to be so busy. I have no motive against the ARS Research but it is a waste of funds. Streamlining should be the focus. Remove dead weight and give to the Veteran's Administration so they can better do for the Veteran's. I know this is like talking to a brick wall - please wake up and get with the program.

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