Why Do You Work for Uncle Sam?

Why do you work for the federal government?

Why do you work for the federal government. Or, if you are a retired federal employee, why did you work for the government for most of your career?

Pinpointing the motivation of a large workforce is difficult at best. Knowing what motivates people to work for an employer can make a difference in getting the "best and the brightest" as President Kennedy wanted to do or crafting advertisements that only attract a workforce that sees the government as an employer of last resort.

With OPM predicting a "retirement tsunami" coming as baby boomers reach retirement age and, presumably, will be filing their retirement papers in the next few years, knowing what will attract new, qualified federal employees is critical.

From random reader comments and from reading hundreds of articles for and about federal government employees, a variety of reasons are often given as to why people work for Uncle Sam for an entire career.

Some people say that they came to work for the government because it paid more than they could get working for industry. Others are more idealistic–they preferred to work in an environment where profit was not the main reason for an organization to exist and they have a chance to help citizens with the power of the government to help them.

Some people are less idealistic. They like not having to work on weekends, getting a lot of holidays that many in private industry do not get and they like working in an environment where there are rules and regulations setting up predictable systems for pay, promotions and awards.

Still others like the feeling that the government won’t go out of business (i.e., job security). An agency can have a bad year, have negative comments plastered in the nation’s media (does FEMA ring a bell?), and still be in business the next year–perhaps with a bigger budget to solve the problems that would have put any private company out of business. And, even with cutbacks in some agencies or some programs, government spending is exploding and is not expected to get smaller in coming years. With private companies, the company may lose a big contract or its profit may dissolve and all employees can be out of a job in no time. While it isn’t complete guaranteed job security, federal employment is probably much more secure than private sector employement in general.

And some readers may say that they would have left years ago but were tied to a retirement system (CSRS) that required them to keep working for the government because they could not afford to leave.

What is your biggest reason for working for the federal government? Has it been a good experience? Would you recommend that a new college graduate begin working for Uncle Sam today?

You can see the results of this survey here.