Report: Plummeting morale threatens government output

The 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey paints a picture of federal workers disheartened by furloughs, pay freezes and budget uncertainty.

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Job satisfaction is on the decline among federal workers, according to the annual "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government" report released by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte.

Based on an analysis of the Office of Personnel Management's 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the latest report paints a picture of feds whose morale is falling amid furloughs, pay freezes and the uncertainty brought on by the across-the-board budget cuts of sequestration.

The report was based on surveys completed months before the government shutdown in October, so reaction to that event did not affect the results.

Therefore, even before the partial shutdown, there were steep drops across government in some of the categories that measure job satisfaction. For instance, satisfaction with pay fell by 4.7 percentage points from 2012's level, while other drivers of job satisfaction -- such as opportunities for training and career advancement -- also saw significant declines. Satisfaction with strategic management and maintaining work/life balance also fell.

By comparison, private-sector job satisfaction in similar categories grew slightly in 2013, according to research by the Hay Group.

“There is no doubt the three-year pay freeze, furloughs, budget cuts, ad hoc hiring freezes and continued uncertainty are taking their toll on federal workers," said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. "What it really means is that agencies aren’t positioned to successfully meet the needs of the American people."

Yet again, NASA sits atop the annual list of large agencies with an employee job satisfaction score of 74 out of 100. The Commerce Department was second, with a score of 67.6. Despite being buffeted by leaks about classified surveillance programs, the intelligence community ranked third with a score of 67.3. That last ranking could have to do with simple economics: The intelligence community scored highest among all large agencies for pay satisfaction.

Among midsize agencies -- those with 1,000 to 14,999 workers -- the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. led the pack with an employee job satisfaction score of 82.3, followed by the Smithsonian Institution at 77.2 and the Government Accountability Office with a score of 74.4. Tops among large agency subcomponents were the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at 84.4, NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center at 84.3 and the U.S. Army Audit Agency at 82.9.

The Partnership for Public Service has posted rankings for 300 agency subcomponents and military commands on its website. Among agencies with fewer than 100 workers, the Surface Transportation Board was first with a score of 84.7, the National Endowment for the Humanities came in second at 84.6, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was third at 84.5.

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