A new study on the "best place to work" in the federal government shows that employees are losing confidence in the leadership of their agencies for the first time since 2003.
According to analysis of workplace satisfaction data by the Partnership for Public Service
, government employee confidence in leadership slumped to 52.8 last year on a rating scale of 0 to 100. The rating was down from 54.9 in 2011, but up from the 49.1 in 2003 when the partnership first began studying employee confidence in the agencies and departments they work for.
The largest decreases in confidence appeared to be directed at senior leaders, which include the heads of agencies, departments, and their senior management teams.
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"In the federal government, satisfaction with leadership has been low and is slipping," said the authors of a report on the study.
Only four in ten employees agreed that their organization's senior leaders could motivate the workforce and fewer than half said senior leaders share information about what's going on in the organization.
The study also found that just half the respondents said they had a high level of respect for their senior leaders and that their senior leaders maintained high standards of honesty and integrity.
"The decrease in satisfaction with senior leaders is especially worrisome," the report's authors said. "Our analysis shows that within the effective leadership category opinions of senior leaders represent the largest driver of employee satisfaction and commitment."
The picture, however, was varied across government agencies, with some scoring better than others. Ratings for leadership and performance at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of State, for example, were significantly higher than those at the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, all of which were below the average.
"The negative trends in federal leadership that are apparent in the 2012 Best Places to Work scores should be a call to action. Federal employees today are living in an environment of great uncertainty given budgetary constraints, pay freezes and staffing cutbacks," the report concluded.
"Agency leaders at all levels need to be engaged in improving the workplace environment," the authors added.
The report made a number of recommendations for agency leaders, such as communicating a clear vision of mission, finding ways to let employees know they are valued, and holding themselves accountable for improving workplace satisfaction scores.
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