Those directing federal agencies have much room for improvement, particularly when it comes to communicating with the rank and file, according to the report “Federal Leadership on the Decline.”
“While federal employees have not given high marks to their leaders for years, satisfaction with leadership dropped in 2012 for the first time since the Best Places to Work rankings were published in 2003,” says the Partnership for Public Service study.
The leadership data are drawn from the Best Places rankings, which are based on the Office of Personnel Management’s 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
Overall, the leadership score was 52.8 on a 100-point scale, a drop of 2.1 points from 2011. That doesn’t sound like much, but “it is definitely significant and consequential,” said Max Stier, the partnership’s president and chief executive.
The news isn’t all bad.
Drawing on lessons learned at the Department of Transportation, which demonstrated the greatest increase in leadership scores, the report offers suggestions for agency leaders, such as:
●“Find ways to let employees know they are valued, including getting to know them by walking the halls and listening to their concerns.”
●“Hold themselves accountable, with improving workplace satisfaction scores incorporated into their performance plans.”
●“Recognize and reward jobs well done, which does not necessarily require monetary incentives.”
Though this is the first drop since 2003, when the score was 49.1, the current rating remains higher than all but the previous two years. Nonetheless, the drop during a period of otherwise steady increases is an unwelcome indication of how things are being run in government agencies.
“The decrease in satisfaction with senior leaders is especially worrisome,” the report said. The effective leadership of senior managers is “the largest driver of employee satisfaction and commitment.”
Here’s another disturbing tidbit: “In 2012, those federal employees planning to leave their jobs in the next year rated their agency 35 points lower in the effective leadership category than those planning to stay. This satisfaction gap between those planning to stay and those planning to leave was larger in leadership than any other workplace category.”
There’s a lot of talent in the U.S. government, but not so much that Sam can afford to have weak leadership play a role in running good workers away. Part of the problem is that leadership doesn’t communicate with staff well enough.
That certainly has been the case during the numerous budget emergencies and threatened government shutdowns federal employees have had to endure in recent years. Many times, federal employees have told us they didn’t know what was happening with an impending crisis, although the administration did do a better job during this current period of sequester budget-cutting.
“Compared to the private sector, federal leaders have more difficulty communicating effectively within their agencies,” the report says. “The government lags behind the private sector by 17 points on employee satisfaction with the information they receive from management regarding what’s going on in their organization.”