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Robert Longley

Federal Workers' Job Satisfaction in Freefall

By December 18, 2012

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Back in February, all 1.8 million federal government employees were given a chance to rate their job satisfaction. The results were disturbing, as the overall job satisfaction and level of commitment of the federal workforce fell its lowest point since 2003.

In 2011, 64 out of every 100 federal employees said they were satisfied with their jobs. As we near the end of 2012, and the third year of the pay freeze imposed by President Obama in 2010, that number has fallen to 60.8 out of 100. The 5% drop is the largest in the history of the survey. At the same time, the Hay Group reported that employee satisfaction in the private sector remained steady, with a score of 70 out of 100.

The rankings from the Best Places to Work in Federal Government 2012 survey reveal that the declines were not limited to overall job satisfaction. As you might expect, the biggest drop during 2012 was in satisfaction with pay, which fell by 4.1 points from 2011. The drop in pay satisfaction was followed closely by a 2.5 point drop in satisfaction with rewards and promotional opportunities.

According to survey sponsor, Partnership for Public Service, the government-wide drop in job satisfaction was predictable with employees "feeling the effects of a two-and-a-half year pay freeze that runs until the early part of 2013, hiring slowdowns, buyouts, increased retirements and budget constraints."

A Lack of Leadership? For the seventh straight year, "leadership" turned out to be one of the lowest-rated workplace categories in the survey. Only 52.8 out of 100 federal employees responded that their agency's leadership was effective in contributing to their satisfaction and commitment to their jobs.

Among those federal agencies, 74% of large agencies saw their overall employee satisfaction ratings decrease in 2012. Decreased job satisfaction was also reported in 82% of mid-sized agencies, 78% of small agencies and 62% of sub-component agencies. Overall, job satisfaction fell in 66% of all federal agencies.

Not All Bad: Somebody somewhere had to be happier. The Department of Transportation, a large agency, raised its job satisfaction score by 4.1 points over 2011, while the Office of Management and Budget, a small agency, was the most improved of any federal organization, enjoying a 13.1 point increase in satisfaction.

The Best and Worst: With a satisfaction score of 72.8 out of 100, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ranked as the best place to work in government for 2012. Close behind NASA were the Intelligence Community and the Department of State.

Already suffering from a case of low morale, the Department of Homeland Security remained the worst place to work in government, ranking dead last among large agencies in all but 2 of 14 job satisfaction categories. Only 52.9% of the Department of Homeland Security's nearly 200,000 employees said they were satisfied with their jobs.

Also See:
The Government Job Finder
Federal Workers Petition Obama for Christmas Eve Off
Best and Worst Government Jobs for 2010

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