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Feds disgruntled with their leaders, study says

Apr. 25, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
A survey of federal employees found the government struggling in comparison with the private sector.
A survey of federal employees found the government struggling in comparison with the private sector. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)

Federal employees rate their leaders lower on communication, they feel less empowered and they view their supervisors less positively than private-sector employees do, according to a study released Wednesday by the Partnership for Public Service.

The survey, which drew on responses to the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, overall found the federal government "struggling" in comparison with the private sector.

Throughout the government, for example, only 43 percent of those surveyed last year believed that their senior leaders generated "high levels of motivation and commitment," the report said. In comparison, 56 percent of private-sector employees feel their companies motivate them to go the extra mile, the report said.

Just 48 percent of feds said they were satisfied with information received from top management about what's happening in their organizations.

The report also found that federal workers rated their immediate supervisors more highly than top leaders. At the Department of Homeland Security, for example, supervisors scored more than one-third higher in employee satisfaction than senior leaders. Governmentwide, two-thirds of survey respondents thought their immediate supervisors or team leaders were doing a good job; almost as many said their supervisors supported employee development.

For agency leaders, one positive finding is that they are doing better in their staff's eyes than just a few years ago: From 2003 to last year, employee satisfaction with senior leaders edged upward by about 15 percent, the report said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ranked first among 27 large federal agencies and the three military services in employee satisfaction with their top leadership, according to the survey.The Department of Homeland Security was last.

Besides NRC, other large agencies ranked high on leadership were the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., NASA and the State Department. Agencies at the bottom besides DHS included the Securities and Exchange Commission, Housing and Urban Development Department and National Archives and Records Administration.

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey defines senior leaders as "the heads of agencies, departments and their senior management teams." Those leaders will typically be members of the Senior Executive Service or the equivalent, the Partnership report said.

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