Federal employees' job satisfaction dips again

The latest Best Places to Work survey reflects feds' continued frustration with leadership. The silver lining? At least the rate of decline is slowing.

Executive Team (Shutterstock Image)

For the fourth year in a row, employee job satisfaction decreased in the federal government.

According to the 2014 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government Rankings by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte, the score for overall satisfaction and commitment fell by 0.9 points -- to 56.9 out of 100.

Employee satisfaction decreased in seven of the 10 workplace categories. However, there is a small silver lining.

"Years of budget decreases then sequestration then pay freezes, a government shutdown -- it's been an incredibly difficult climate that feds have been operating in and yet 43 percent were able to make improvements," Lara Shane, vice president of research and communications at the Partnership for Public Service, told FCW.

She also said that although governmentwide satisfaction has declined for the past four years, it is declining less and less each year. And she noted that 2014 saw significantly more agencies notch at least minor improvement than in 2013, when only 24 percent of agencies raised their scores.

Still, these are hardly stellar grades. So why are feds still fed up?

Effective leadership has been the top driver of employee satisfaction every year since the review was launched in 2003. In this year's rankings, assessments of both effective leadership and strategic management were down 1.4 points. The rating for senior leaders decreased by three points to 42.4, the lowest score ever in that group.

"When there are a lot of vacancies at an agency, there's no leadership there to make a decision," Shane said. "People lose progress toward their goals."

She added that the survey results send a strong message that federal employees don't believe senior leaders are generating high levels of commitment or empowering employees.

There are exceptions, though. NASA has consistently been at the top of the rankings, and that is due in large part to efforts by Administrator Charles Bolden and Chief Human Capital Officer Jeri Buchholz, Shane said.

"What sets NASA apart is they have made this a priority," she said. "They make it clear to their employees that they want to be a 'best place to work.'"

Other drivers of employee satisfaction are a match between agency mission and employee skills, followed by pay. Employees' satisfaction with skills/mission match were down 0.8 points in the 2014 rankings, while pay satisfaction was up 2.2 points in the wake of Congress' authorization of a 1 percent salary increase for federal employees in 2014.

Large Agencies
Top 3
NASA, 74.6
Commerce Department, 68.7
State Department, 68.2
Bottom 3
Army, 54.7
Department of Veterans Affairs, 54.6
Department of Homeland Security, 44.0
Midsize Agencies
Top 3
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, 82.3
Government Accountability Office, 77.2
Smithsonian Institution, 76.9
Bottom 3
National Archives and
  Records Administration, 46.7
Broadcasting Board of Governors, 45.4
Department of Housing and
  Urban Development, 44.3
Small Agencies
Top 3
Surface Transportation Board, 86.8
Federal Mediation and
  Conciliation Service, 83.5
Peace Corps, 82.8
Bottom 3
Federal Maritime Commission, 42.0
Federal Election Commission, 40.4
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, 33.8
Source: Partnership for Public Service

NEXT STORY: Shutdown 2.0 appears unlikely

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