Federal Federal File

Bottom of the Curve

By Christina A. Samuels — October 11, 2005 1 min read

Two years ago, when the Department of Education ranked near the bottom on a survey of federal employees on the best places to work, a department spokesman suggested that one reason for the poor showing was that the agency’s employees were expressing discomfort over being asked to think differently about what they do.

So what does it say that for the second time since 2003, the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service found that the Education Department ranked near the bottom of its survey on federal employees’ job satisfaction?

This year, the results placed the department 28th out of 30 agencies. When the survey was first conducted in 2003, the department was 26th out of 28 agencies. Job satisfaction was about the same in both surveys; 52.7 percent of Education Department employees expressed satisfaction with their jobs in the 2005 survey, compared with 52.5 in the earlier survey. About 150,000 federal employees responded to the federal Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Human Capital Survey, and the partnership used the survey as the basis for its results. The survey was conducted before Margaret Spellings was selected to head the 4,070-employee department.

The White House Office of Management and Budget, which produces the president’s annual budget proposal, finished first overall in the survey. The National Science Foundation was second. At the bottom of the heap, below the Education Department, were the Department of Homeland Security, at 29th, and the Small Business Administration, at 30th.

Marc Porter Magee, the research director for the Partnership for Public Service, which works to entice people into taking government jobs, said that federal employees who were happiest with their jobs tended to have positive feelings about their leaders, and a connection with their agencies’ missions. Even if other workplace issues scored lower, those two rankings correlated strongly with satisfied employees, he said.

Susan Aspey, an Education Department spokeswoman, said Ms. Spellings has visited each of the department’s offices, and has conducted open forums where employees can ask her questions.

“She’s made a real effort to reach out to all the staff here,” Ms. Aspey said.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2005 edition of Education Week

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