Management Watch

Blog archive

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:

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

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


  • Defense
    Soldiers from the Old Guard test the second iteration of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) capability set during an exercise at Fort Belvoir, VA in Fall 2019. Photo by Courtney Bacon

    IVAS and the future of defense acquisition

    The Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System has been in the works for years, but the potentially multibillion deal could mark a paradigm shift in how the Defense Department buys and leverages technology.

  • Cybersecurity
    Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lora Ratliff)

    Mayorkas announces cyber 'sprints' on ransomware, ICS, workforce

    The Homeland Security secretary announced a series of focused efforts to address issues around ransomware, critical infrastructure and the agency's workforce that will all be launched in the coming weeks.

Stay Connected