Job satisfaction among federal workers is on the decline for the first time in four years. It stands at 64 percent -- according to this year's Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey -- conducted by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. The satisfaction score is down one and a half percentage points from last year -- and is lower than scores at large private-sector companies, but there are some federal agencies where morale is on the rise. Ed O'Keefe, who writes the "Federal Eye" column for the Washington Post, weighs in on the implications.
Worker satisfaction at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is up 8.5 percent this year -- to close to 86 percent -- the highest of any large agency. Why is morale higher at the FDIC?
Agency leadership say they have been doing it since 1933. With the economy in tatters, its one agency that has been doing its job and doing it well, and workers understand what the mission is. So workers feel empowered and happy to be working there.
The National Archives and Records Administration is at the bottom of the list of large agencies -- down more than 7 percent from last year. What seems to account for dissatisfaction there?
They are in the midst of a big reorganization. They're going from stuffing boxes full of documents to digitizing them and finding out what their purpose is in the 21st century.
The new archivist, who was installed in 2009, has been going around the country talking to his workers. He's found that they need to make some big changes.
When the survey was conducted in May, that reorganization was on the minds of workers. They're convinced that they will turn that around.
Overall -- worker satisfaction is down one and a half percent. Given salary freezes and looming budget cuts -- are you surprised there wasn't a bigger drop?
"I know the folks that put this together definitely said they thought the drop would be a little larger," says O'Keefe. "Frankly, as somebody who tracks this stuff on a daily basis, I too am a bit surprise that it didn't drop more."
Rank and file workers say its bad and that they are frustrated, but it could be worse. Washington is a healthy job market, and its great to have a steady position with good benefits and amenities. There are lots of people who would love to have these kind of positions. So while it is bad, it could be worse.
This is a big survey -- more than 260,000 federal workers participated. How seriously do agencies take the results?
They take it very seriously. Cabinet agencies use them as a recruitment tool. There are press releases amongst the top agencies bragging about their position on the list.
The ones that are at the bottom are taking great concern, and are talking to employees and thinking about ways to improve their numbers.