Feds v. leadership: satisfaction dwindles

Federal leadership is on the decline, and it’s the first time in nearly a decade it’s happened, according to new analysis.

The new research, which examines the annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government Analysis” released in April by the Partnership for Public Service, revealed federal employees’ satisfaction with their leadership dropped for the first time in nine years.

Senior leaders, defined for purpose of the survey as heads of agencies, departments and their senior management teams, only scored 46.7 on a scale of 100 — 2.6 points lower than the previous year. Furthermore, just half of respondents said they “had a high level of respect for their senior leaders and their senior leaders maintained high standards of honesty and integrity.”

Supervisors scored consistently well in all categories of the survey. More than 65 percent of federal employees felt their supervisors were doing a good job, giving useful feedback, and giving employees opportunities to demonstrate leadership skills.


“You learn to get along with your supervisors,” said John Palguta, vice president for policy at Partnership for Public Service. “It’s much easier to create a negative impression of a person who is further removed.”

The agencies with the highest rankings in effective leadership were NASA, the intelligence community and the State Department. Among the lowest were the Labor Department, Veterans Affairs Department and Homeland Security Department. The last three all saw decreases in their overall score between 2011 and 2012, with VA having the largest dip of 4.8 points.

According to the report, federal employees are living with “great uncertainty” of their jobs because of budgetary setbacks, while simultaneously “feeling less empowered to do their jobs and are less satisfied with the way their senior leaders are handling their agencies.”

However, six out of 10 agencies saw improvement in their approval of leadership over the past year. The Transportation Department saw the greatest improvement of 2.3 points, with Commerce Department and NASA following behind with a 1.1-point improvement.

Palguta said seeing certain agencies improving during difficult economic circumstances is encouraging. “It’s good to see that it’s not all set in stone — that even in tough times, great leaders can make a difference and start to turn things around,” he said.

Latest Podcasts