Federal Employee Satisfaction with Jobs, Pay on the Decline

By on November 22, 2012 in Current Events with 57 Comments

OPM released the results of the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey this week. According to results from a record number of respondents (687,687), general trends indicate that federal employees feel the work they do is important, but tight agency budgets and the pay freeze are starting to have an impact on morale.

Job satisfaction was down two percentage points from 2011 (66% from 68%). Leadership and knowledge management, results-oriented performance culture, and talent management were areas which showed a slight decline from 2011 results as well.

Satisfaction with pay weighed the most on survey scores as only 59% of respondents reported pay satisfaction, the lowest score since 2004.

According to the survey write up, “These results suggest that the continued tight budgets, salary freezes and general public opinion of Federal service are beginning to take a toll on even the most committed employees. However, findings still indicate that Federal employees remain hardworking, motivated and mission-focused.”

However, 80% of employees surveyed like the work they do and 90% or more said the work they do is important.

As to supervisors, roughly three out of four employees indicated that their supervisor treats them with respect, has talked to them about their performance, supports their need to balance work and life, and listens to what they have to say.

Two out of three employees said that:

  • Their supervisor is doing a good job overall,
  • They have trust and confidence in their supervisor,
  • Their supervisor provides opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills,
  • Their supervisor is committed to the workforce, and
  • Their supervisor supports employee development.

The full report offers additional response details and results broken down by agency.

© 2016 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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  1. tejaym says:

    Originally I planned to wait until I was 70 to retire. I loved doing what I do and my boss is great to work for on a daily basis. According to our ‘customers’ we were having a significant positive impact in the workplace. Now we’re being nickle and dime’d to death. The value of what I do has been marginalized to the point of insignificance. Our work is getting more and more backlogged as our funding evaporates with the prospect of never being able to catch up unless significant resources are made availale. Not to menition the effective pay decreases over the past few years. I’m looking into my retirement options now adn will leave as soon as it suits me, not the government. I’ll take my graduate degree, OJT, and extensive training and experience elsewhere.

  2. Danl_P says:

    Its hard to be satisfied with your job when you are attacked on many sides, and the side you supported has sold you down the river. Overall, the survey suggests that most federal employees are doing their job well, enjoying it, and recognizing that they are well managed. Got to be bad news for the union local presidents who are getting paid for doing nothing. At some point, even the average GS-5 is going to figure out that the union is worthless and drop out

  3. Frontline Fed says:

    I pretty much agree with the survey.  I am one of the lucky ones who has a direct supervisor who (a) has experience in the field, (b) is intelligent and knowledgeable, and (c) has demonstrated critical thinking skills.  I like my job and overall, the pay and benefits are pretty darn good.  Unfortunately, the majority of folks in GS-13 or above grades are in place, not because of merit, but because of cronyism, nepotism and favoritism.   They do not know the business nor understand it, and they do not know a darn thing about managing personnel.  If it wasn’t for my direct boss, I would be out of here…as it is, I am looking for employment elsewhere because doing your job right and improving on it does not translate to upward mobility.

  4. Paul Dziadon says:

    Can’t we just focus on the problem vice finger pointing, usually all respective positions regardless of series are needed for the origanziation to properly work and each supports the entire organization whether it be a clerk or the SES.  We all serve our country, make sacrifices as indicated by those that continue to serve even through the pay freezes, award reduction etc…We all need each others support, now more than ever, lets not put more fuel to the fire, it certainly dosent help anyone.  Appreciate all who currently servewhether you be active duty or a civilian. 

  5. Andy2x says:

    Congress, the President, and agency managers will ignore these results and/or put a positive spin on them just like they have done with all of the other survey results.  Wake up!  These dark brown arrows pointing down mean something. 

  6. Steve Neal says:

    Yeah, federal pay freezes BETTER end soon and kick-in a healthy raise get us back on track as if these freezes never happened.  You know, to keep us up with inflation and the cost of gasoline and goods that have gone up for increased energy and transport costs.  My paycheck is actually “dropping” if you look at the percentage of income I pay for everything.

    Since we’ve lost about 2.5% per year in missing raises since 2010 and we all spend about 30% more on our daily commute to work (my personal commute is 36 miles one-way), I figure I’ll break even with a 12% pay bump if it happens this fiscal year.  Over 15%, if it is delayed to next year and fuel stays the same.

  7. HowLongTillRetirement? says:


    80% “like the work they do.”  At my office, most folks don’t have a clue what “work” is – more precisely, they do know the meaning of the word “labor.”  They “roll in” around 9-ish, run the gauntlet of saying hello and catching up with friends and colleagues, make breakfast, surf the web – and then somewhere around 10-ish, they start to check all the email they couldn’t be bothered to check any other time.  Around noon-ish it is “let’s discuss lunch,” followed by “we’re going for lunch.”  Round about 1:30-ish, they return, attend a few meetings (where others present, speak, and question) and a few carefully timed hear-nods and “yes, that is an issue,” comments carry the day, and they are starring down 4:30-ish, when it is time to power-off and go home.  All for 135K a year.  LOL.
    I would like my job too.  Especially if it was a banker’s hours social club.

    Please, please, allow pay for performance.  When those who “coast” are paid every bit as much as those who “toil”…. you demotivate anyone who actually gives a damn.  And then when the universe throws us all in the same “Gov’t workers are lazy POS’s” basket, we get pretty bumbed out.

    • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow says:

      I don’t dispute your experience, but please know that it isn’t the case with every federal employee.  I really like my job; I like the fast pace (usually) and trying to formulate solutions that will help the majority of my customers (internal and external).  I like the accomplishment part.  I am not the only one in my office who puts in more than 40 hours per week in an effort to meet the demand/needs. 

  8. unmasked is better says:

    Is Karl Rove the real persons name for onedonewrong?

  9. 312317610 says:

    How could federal workers be satisfield with no increase in 3years our bills didn’t stop increasing, health care didn’t decrease we should receive all steps.  Don’t forget where you started !!!be fair. IF they check with honsetly  federal employees could become  the new working poor why cause you have more under 60+ salary

    • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

      One can be somewhat content if he knows that the private sector is doing even worse.  And that question is the crux of the matter.

    • $15300432 says:

      they have made up for it with working fewer and fewer hours a week so they are now down to 20 or less

  10. pickyforsure says:

    On a larger scale (globally) we are in a fiscal mess and it really has to do with the redistribution of wealth more and more to the upper 1% (plenty of papers to cite on this, so do your own homework). Here is just the latest from R. Skidalsky at the U.K.’s Guardianon Nov 22, 2012:
    “If governments, with their already high level of indebtedness, believe that they cannot borrow any more from the public, they should borrow from their central banks and spend the extra money themselves on public works and infrastructure projects. This is the only way to get the big economies of the West moving again.But, beyond this, we cannot carry on with a system that allows so much of the national income and wealth to pile up in so few hands. Concerted redistribution of wealth and income has frequently been essential to the long-term survival of capitalism. We are about to learn that lesson again.”

    The basic tenet here is that if you squeeze the people’s pay while prices of goods continue to rise, you kill capitalism as they can afford to buy less and less. The upper 1% can purchase a lot, but they can’t keep world economies afloat in the long term, even the middle term (within the next decade). That may be a bet and I am willing to make it.

    • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow says:

      The information you refer to is actually worse than you say, and can be seen at:  http://www.census.gov/hhes/www

      Household income for bottom three quintile groups has been flat over the pst 30 yrs.  Only the top quintile income group has increased their income dramatically.  The gap between wealthy and poor continues to widen. 

    • $15300432 says:

      Squeezing federal employees pay and benefits will generate $100B  a year that can be used for infrastructure. eliminating 60% of the fed work force would limit job killing rules and regulations from being dreamt up by unelected bureaucrats

  11. Ortsgruppen says:

        I’ve got over 33 years of service and have worked my way up to an SES position. It is disappointing to me to observe what has happened to the value of federal service. I’ve got a bright and highly capable son-in-law who has 2 years of federal service in IT. He is talking about getting out and going back to the private sector for more pay and more respect. The dedicated people I work with don’t mind so mind sacrificing the pay for the gipper, but the disrespect and denigration seem to be getting to them.  I guess for my fellow citizens I would say that you will eventually get what you pay for.

    • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

      As an SES’er, I’m curious if you agree with one of my pet peeves about federal IT work vis a vis respect.

      Over the past 5 years or so, it seems like more and more administrative work is being shifted from secretarial / business staff, to IT staff.  The most notable example is computer purchases, where it’s taken literally over a year, and multiple man-weeks of my team’s labor, to try procuring just a few laptops and software.  The majority of the time has been spent handling bureaucratic issues and getting quotes in a way that absolutely didn’t require my team’s expertise.

      This strikes me as problematic in two ways.  First, it’s very inefficient, in that persons with much lower wages could do the work.  But more importantly, it asks my team to spend their time not doing the highly technical work which they enjoy and which advances their careers.  Instead, it’s work that they consider unpleasant and distracting from their main mission.

    • $15300432 says:

      That’s what the federal system breeds communism where everyone gets the same raise does minimal work and has 0 accountability. Where else in the world can you be a SES with only a GED????

  12. Ikillyouwithtruth says:

    Yep, these conditions sound horrendous!  Low morale?  Tight budgets?  Salary freezes?  Welcome to the real world (private sector) my entitled federal friends.  Only a .5% salary increase?  Stop your whining, that’s an increase that the majority of private sector employees would LOVE to see.  


    Morale is at an all time low. Everyone I know is planning to retire out at the earliest opportunity. Nearly everyone is praying for Early Outs and would accept them on the spot. The baloney about surveying opinions of supervisors is a hoot! Three out of three persons I know would say exactly the opposite. Federal employee pay now lags private sector pay by 35 to 50%. Nearly all highly specialized and educated engineering and technical employees will be able to retire out and accept private sector positions at nearly double their current subpar salaries. Mass exodus on the way. Can’t wait to retire. Federal employees have had enough of the political attacks and continuous lies, misinformation and slander.

    • Ikillyouwithtruth says:

      35-50% lag?  I hope to God you’re talking strictly about engineering or highly technical specialties.  That may be so.  But there’s no way the overabundance of administrative positions (i.e. highly non-technical) deserve an additional 35-50% in pay.  Making $60+ sitting at a desk doing doing monkey work is outrageous enough.

      • Mac says:

        You really have no clue what you are talking about. There are thousands of employees making well below 60+ and your statement about doing monkey work is downright disrespectful and ignorant. Where were you when I was deployed (as a GS civilian) in my bunker at night getting shot at. There is so much more that is required of government workers than doing monkey work as you state. You are a discrace! No idea what you are talking about and very misinformed and selfish to put it nicely.

        • $15300432 says:

          you were in a bunker?? must be living in DC or Detroit because any CS deployed was making over $150,000 a year and were safer than living in any large city As for the monkey work what would you describe it as??? anyone with an IQ of 80 or better can do the same quality of work

          • Mac says:

            Again, someone jumping in that makes ignorant assumptions based on inaccurate information. You’re just as bad as lkillyouwithtruth.  I made no where near 150,000 a year and no believe me there is a big  difference between DC, Detroit and Iraq.  So, I guess you are saying that any administrative person be it GS or civilian that works hard each day behind a computer or does mundane / repetetive work equates to work that could be done by a monkey! Wow, for someone that jumps in to someone elses conversation you sure are both uninformed and very rude. I suggest you stick to your own business and not insult literally hundreds of thousands of blue collar workers regardless  if they are GVT or civilian. What do you do? What makes you so much better?  Are you a rocket scientist, which makes you eligible to judge so many others in such a negative way.  What a nice person……………  

          • WasteOfMyTimeReadingThese says:

            I’m you’re huckaberry… I beg to differ.  See CoTapper above.  IQ of 80 cannot multitask.  Mac should be talking to you too.

          • Hayesnet says:

            So where were you and what have you done for the country?  Where you in the feild in Iraq of Afghanistan?  You seem to know what people where being paid?  Where you just posting about being done wrong?

          • $15300432 says:

            Yep I have been
            Yep I know what they are being paid

      • Dedicated Fed says:

        As an Administrative GS-7 who works hard every single day, I find your description of my efforts as ‘monkey work’ extremely offensive.   I support and facilitate the work of five senior managers, serve as a team lead, have a collateral assignment, and also serve as a information and training resource for five internal Divisions and five Field Divisions.  Propping yourself up by denigrating the work of others is the mark of an insecure and overly-egoistic personality.   Please refrain from doing it.  It takes all of us, working together in an atmosphere of mutual support and respect, to complete our missions with excellent.  Tearing down certain team members is no way to accomplish the task.

        • Dedicated Fed says:

          And incidentally….I make nowhere near 60k per year.

        • LeftyH says:

          Thank you!  I was a GS 7 for 16 years as a Food Inspector and then I took a promotion as a relief CSI.  I would love to see some of these people who think we merely collect a paycheck and do nothing do what I do!  This week I am working days, next week I am working 7 days of 4 PM to 4 AM and the following week I will be on a day shift that starts at 3 AM.  Hello world!

      • CoTapper says:

        Not all work Administrators do is monkey work.  In fact, none of it is.  Without Administrators doing “all the work” and you know what work I’m talking about, doing the work of the managers, supervisors, employees, scientists, etc., there would be no company or organization because all the other groups could NOT handle the organizational skills it takes to keep an office running smoothly if not for the Administrators.  Not many can multi-task but Administrators can so just because the responsibility level of making decisions is not there, I guarantee, their work more than compensates for the higher paid employees.

      • Your Killin Me Allright says:

        Really, there aren’t that many adminstrative positions left.  I agree with Mac, you don’t know what you are talking about.

    • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

      I’m a little skeptical of your 35-50% number.  Can you be more specific about what technical field(s) / skills / geography you’re talking about?

      • Old Fed says:

        The latest survey from the President’s Pay Panel cites those numbers. There have been several articles on this site as well as the Federal Times and the Washington Post (last week on WAPO) about it.

        • $15300432 says:

          Who makes up that panel???? Oh OH surprise surprise the federal unions now that’s an unbiased source and for some reason they never offer up any methodology for their numbers

    • $15300432 says:

      There is not 1 independent source that supports the union pay panels

  14. $15300432 says:

    Lets see $130,000 avg salary, 0 accountability golden retirement parachute indexed to inflation and a 20 hour work week. How can anyone put up with this type of working conditions

    • Tdc4160 says:

      I’d like to know who gets 130,000 a year and only works 20 hours,most work 40 plus for 50,000 or less.

      • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

        I think you’re unaware of this particular troll’s M.O.  He typically makes uncorroborated claims containing made-up numbers that vastly exaggerate whatever is wrong with typical federal employment, and he implies that those made-up numbers represent the typical federal employee.

        I’m not sure what psychological issues drive his behavior, but it’s generally best to just ignore him, as he eventually goes away.

      • $15300432 says:

        WHO???? the avg Fed makes $130,000 a year as shown by numerous outside researchers, from Heritage to USA Today from MSNBC to the Wall st Journal to name a few. The 2o hours comes from OPM when Feds work terminals are looked at to see what they are logged into

      • $15300432 says:

        That’s the avg pay for feds according to Heritage and USA Today, Wall st Journal and MSNBC and from 10 other fact based analysis organizations.

    • Misterpond says:

      I am not sure what you are smoking but it must be illegal.   Let’s see, no pay raise for 4 years, $1300/month for health insurance, under constant attack from citizens that do not know the facts, implementing Congressional mandates and having Congress getting mad when you implement them, working overtime everyday (without pay) just to get your work done, early out golden parachute is $25,000 if one exists, people running for the exits to become private contractors so they can pay their child’s college tuition, etc.  

      • $15300432 says:

        Gee that’s not what OPM says. Last year the avg Fed received a raise of 1.5% what your referring to is an annual attendance raise and that has been frozen for 2 years. $1300 a month for Health Insurance??That’s what the govt pays or better yet the taxpayers the avg fed pays $200 a month.
        Congressional mandates?? sorry 99% of all the new rules and regulations issue every year are done thanks to unelected bureaucrats that have never work a day in their lives. Working OT??? Please the avg Fed works 20 hours a week the rest of the time is spent playing video games surfing the web, social media, porn etc.
        No taxpayer has a pension that’s adjusted annually for inflation or carries HC into retirement, that’s why there are 1000 applicants for every FED opening. That’s why USAjobs for many openings say only the first 200 will be screened

    • Fed_Peasant says:

      Sounds like an air force military career…LOL!!!

    • NCSandtiger says:

      Stupid trolls always post nonsense.

      • $15300432 says:

        That’s true i your case but my post is 100% factual. Its a shame you can’t read or do any basic research before posting so you don’t look so foolish