Feds motivated by more than just pay

FCW readers share what keeps them going at their jobs

It seems that pay is not the most important driver when it comes to federal employees’ performance, at least according to some of FCW’s vocal readers. Instead, they tell us, feds are motivated by strong managers and a commitment to public service.

More than 100 readers shared their thoughts on the connection between federal pay and motivation in response to a March 16 "Gov Careers" blog entry by Phil Piemonte. Piemonte wrote the entry after Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said the performance of federal employees need not be linked to their pay.

“There’s a lot of literature out there that says what drives performance really isn’t pay,” Berry said this month at the Interagency Resources Management Conference.


Related stories:

OPM's Berry: Pay and performance need not be linked

Rating feds' performance: Changes are in the works


But how true is that statement? Readers of Piemonte’s blog provided some clues with their comments.

“Competent management would go a long way towards motivating the workforce to do their best,” one reader wrote. “Mediocre to incompetent managers frustrate workers and can demotivate them to the point [that they give up] on trying to do their best.”

Other readers suggested that their drive might wane in the face of what they perceive as unfair pay — a topic of lively debate.

“Why is the government so willing to pay contractors $150 per hour (roughly $270,000 annually) but not do the right thing by its federal employees?” a reader asked. “The government could pay [its employees] a competitive market wage and still save money if they cut out all the contracting.”

“In many of the professional areas, government workers are already paid significantly less than their private-sector counterpart," another reader noted.

Employee motivations might also vary depending on which generation an employee is from, another reader said. “Those of us that have been around a while work hard to get where we are while the younger ones come in with a college degree and feel they are entitled to a really good living without having to work as hard,” the reader wrote.

And during a time of constrained budgets, a few said their jobs are becoming increasingly difficult and pay is not their most pressing concern. “I’m getting burned out because we’re doing much more work with less people,” a reader said. “I’m in the medical field, and one of these days, we’re going to have a major error because people are being pushed to do more and more.”

Still, pay does play some part in a fed’s work ethic. Many readers had no qualms about admitting that pay is an important motivator, regardless of what those high up in the government think.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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