2013 sees lowest federal employee satisfaction yet

Federal employee satisfaction has hit an all-time low.

The “2013 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings released Wednesday by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte revealed employee job satisfaction continues to decrease for the third consecutive year, reaching 57.8 on a 100-point scale.

The satisfaction score dropped 3 points since 2012, and 7.2 points from a high of 65.0 in 2010. 2013 saw the lowest governmentwide score, and yet the survey was completed before the 16-day government shutdown occurred.

Since 2003, the rankings steadily increased until 2010 when they started decreasing, erasing all the gains made and then some, according to Lara Shane, vice president of research and communications at the Partnership for Public Service.


“Hiring is slowing down, retirements are ticking up,” Shane told FedScoop. “When you couple that with furloughs, it has definitely been a challenging operating climate for federal employees to get their job done.”

The private sector, on the other hand, saw improvements in employee satisfaction in 2013, with a slight 0.7-point increase. While these rankings are meant to serve as a benchmark for agencies to rank among each other, Shane noted a side-by-side comparison of private versus public can be good.

“It’s important for agencies not to lose sight that that’s who we’re competing against to recruit talent for federal government,” Shane said. “We want to close that gap in order to be competitive.”

Federal employees are most unhappy with their pay, and the rankings indicated a 4.7-point dip in the last year. In addition to pay, employees were dissatisfied with training and development, employee skills-mission match, and work-life balance.

However, it’s important to note, Shane said, 88 percent of employees surveyed believe the work they do is important.


The primary influence on employee satisfaction was, for the eighth year in a row, effective leadership, specifically senior leadership. In 2013, senior leaders received a governmentwide rating of 45.4.

In this type of work climate, Shane said leadership has to work that much harder to keep employees informed.

Agencies with the biggest decrease in employee satisfaction this year were Defense Nuclear Safety Board (-33.4), Office of Management and Budget (-14.0), Department of Housing and Urban Development (-10.8), and the Environmental Protection Agency (-8.3).

“There is no doubt the three-year pay freeze, furloughs, budget cuts, ad hoc hiring freezes and continued uncertainty are taking their toll on federal workers,” said Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service president and CEO. “What it really means is that agencies aren’t positioned to successfully meet the needs of the American people.”

The top 10 Best Places to Work large federal agencies:


1) National Aeronautics and Space Administration
2) Commerce Department
3) Intelligence community
4) State Department
5) Justice Department
6) Social Security Administration
7) Department of Health and Human Services
8) Transportation Department
9) Treasury Department
10) Environmental Protection Agency (tie)
10) Department of the Navy (tie)

The top five mid-size agencies:

1) Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
2) Smithsonian Institution
3) Government Accountability Office
4) Nuclear Regulatory Commission (tie)
4) Federal Trade Commission (tie)

The top five small agencies:

1) Surface Transportation Board
2) National Endowment for the Humanities
3) Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
4) Peace Corps
5) Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board

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