Sequestration Lowering Morale, Increasing Desire to Retire?

A recent survey reveals that the sequester is harming morale and increasing the desire for federal workers to retire when they are eligible to do so. recently asked readers about their retirement eligibility and the overall retirement process within federal agencies.

With the threat of sequestration facing federal agencies and their employees coupled with a significant portion of the federal workforce nearing retirement age, comments we see on the site indicate that retirement is on the minds of many of our users who work for the government.

Of the almost 1,300 responses to the survey, roughly 80% were within 5 years of being eligible to retire.  That includes a number of individuals who are eligible but are continuing to work.  The respondents were clearly those individuals closest to retirement.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Half of respondents are planning to retire when they become eligible.  Another 19% have not finalized their plans.
  • Only 18% have looked for a job outside of government.  What is not known is how many are in the early years of their federal career.
  • The threat of sequestration has had less impact on retirements and resignations than one might expect. Retirements and resignations have not risen above normal levels, according to 40% of the respondents.  Another 24% are not certain.
  • The sequestration threat has prompted the agencies of 59% of the respondents to stop efforts to add staff.
  • A disturbing finding, since the survey was conducted a week from the date sequestration is scheduled to begin, is that only 29% indicated their agency has communicated a plan.  Respondents do not know what to expect.
  • 79% of respondents say the political dispute surrounding sequestration has impacted the work of their agency.
  • Only 42% of those responding would advise young workers to pursue a federal career.

The survey also invited open ended comments, and over 300 individuals shared their opinions. The general tenor of the comments mirrors some of the moribund trends in the response highlights above, such as a low morale when it comes to recommending federal employment to younger workers.

The following is a sample of some of the comments:

“I have never seen morale so low.  We had a young intelligent person that was hired, and after 6 months resigned.”

“Expertise has been lost for many years before now and the department has dumbed-down its expectations of quality to meet the lower levels.”

“I used to be proud of my service to my Country; USMC and 31 years in federal law enforcement.  Now, we’re just a target for politicians, the media, and the uninformed public.  It I used to be proud of my service to my Country; USMC and 31 years in federal law enforcement.  Now, we’re just a target for politicians, the media, and the uninformed public.  It doesn’t matter anymore, and it hurts.  I used to be proud to say that I am a Federal Civil Servant … not anymore.”

“These are responsible mission oriented jobs. Unfortunately, the perverted hatred of government has obscured the many valuable services federal employees perform with great honor and dedication every day.”

“Everyone here can’t WAIT until it’s time to retire! If offered an early out, many would take it.”

“Constant demands on staff push’s high stress / crisis environment.  Senior Agency heads stimulate the low morale / dissatisfaction already existing.”

“My son worked for govt right out of college, he quit after 1 1/2 years to work for private company.  Makes $25,000 more with better benefits and loves it, job is just like the govt job but better benefits and pay.”

“I’m retiring in a month.  With all the Fed bashing going on, can’t come soon enough.”

“There is a grave lack of skill sets among those entering the workforce in some areas.”

“The Federal Government is no longer the Government that I started my career.”

About the Author

Howard Risher is a private consultant who focuses on pay and performance. His career extends over 40 years and includes years managing consulting practices for two national firms. He recently became the editor of the journal Compensation and Benefits Review. He has written four books, including Aligning Pay and Results. He has an MBA and Ph.D from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.