Welles: Best leaders for the best places

Good communication with managers is a big factor in helping employees feel satisfied with their jobs

Government information technology workers are happy campers, generally satisfied with what they do and where they work, according to Federal Computer Week’s annual “Best Agencies for Federal IT Workers.” FCW defines the best agencies as the ones with the most satisfied employees. Other recent surveys have examined leadership in best-of-class organizations and found similar results.

In the FCW survey, among management factors, a “good relationship with management,” “flexible work arrangements,” and a “strong belief in management’s vision of the agency’s mission” contributed most to worker satisfaction.

Researchers at the Human Resource Institute (HRI) in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., support those findings. Communication with managers and within an organization can help improve job satisfaction, said Jay Jamrog, the institute’s executive director. The biggest part of communication is building relationships, he said.

Reaching a common understanding with managers, especially on the question of why do the work — the mission vision — brings a sense of the importance of the work, Jamrog said. Feeling that what we do is important makes the work more satisfying.

FCW found that employees who feel challenged and think they are making a difference tend to be satisfied in their jobs. Among technology factors, the “opportunity to manage complex projects,” “use of leading-edge technology,” and the “ability to upgrade technology skills” were most critical to worker satisfaction in the FCW survey.

Those findings are no surprise to researchers at the National Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland University College. In a recent presentation, Carol Dell’Amore, the institute’s executive director, cited surveys showing that challenging work, rather than salary, is what motivates employees.

A related question is how best-in-class organizations develop leaders. What leadership competencies are most important today and will be most important in 10 years? The American Management Association and HRI addressed those questions in their “Leading into the Future” survey of 1,573 executives. Most survey respondents were from corporations, but some represented government.

In government, the main barriers to developing leaders are a lack of rewards for leadership development and a lack of measures for leadership behavior, according to the AMA/HRI survey. Despite the government’s emphasis on performance metrics, measuring leadership qualities and behaviors has taken a back seat. But measuring behaviors might provide some incentives for change.

Leadership behaviors, for example, may have been a factor in responses to the FCW survey. Employees who felt passed over because of favoritism or felt underappreciated by managers indicated low job satisfaction.

If the best agencies want to remain at the top, they will need strong leaders. According to the AMA/HRI survey, the leadership competencies that will be most important for government in the next 10 years are the abilities to communicate well, foster innovation and creativity, and develop other leaders.

And technology is one of the primary factors influencing leadership and the pace of change.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.


  • Shutterstock image (by wk1003mike): cloud system fracture.

    Does the IRS have a cloud strategy?

    Congress and watchdog agencies have dinged the IRS for lacking an enterprise cloud strategy seven years after it became the official policy of the U.S. government.

  • Shutterstock image: illuminated connections between devices.

    Who won what in EIS

    The General Services Administration posted detailed data on how the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract might be divvied up.

  • Wikimedia Image: U.S. Cyber Command logo.

    Trump elevates CyberCom to combatant command status

    The White House announced a long-planned move to elevate Cyber Command to the status of a full combatant command.

  • Photo credit: John Roman Images / Shutterstock.com

    Verizon plans FirstNet rival

    Verizon says it will carve a dedicated network out of its extensive national 4G LTE network for first responders, in competition with FirstNet.

  • AI concept art

    Can AI tools replace feds?

    The Heritage Foundation is recommending that hundreds of thousands of federal jobs be replaced by automation as part of a larger government reorganization strategy.

  • DOD Common Access Cards

    DOD pushes toward CAC replacement

    Defense officials hope the Common Access Card's days are numbered as they continue to test new identity management solutions.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group