The notion that many American citizens disapprove of and mistrust their government is, unfortunately, not uncommon. But the notion that employees of the federal government also lack faith in their leaders may come as a surprise. Nevertheless, as the Washington Post reports, the nationwide 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which was released at the end of October, found that morale among government workers is at a five-year low.
While the majority of Americans employed at various government agencies still believe that their work is important, the survey found that these employees are increasingly frustrated with their senior leaders. And as Federal Times reporter Andy Medici notes, statistics comparing employee morale between 2011 and 2014 are indicative of how quickly this frustration has grown.
The survey shows that 50% of government agency employees now believe that their senior leaders consistently show integrity, whereas this number was at 57% back in 2011. Only 38% of employees would say that their leaders generate enthusiasm and motivation, which is down from 45% in 2011.
These shifts in employee frustration appear to be consistent across the board, affecting government agencies big and small, and many people are speculating that high-profile budget cuts and controversies are largely to blame. The survey was released nearly a year after the huge 2013 federal furlough, during which thousands of government employees were jobless for a short period. The Veterans Affairs Department scandal, which left numerous U.S. veterans on wait lists and without healthcare services, is still fresh in the minds of the American people as well, and agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (which have suffered from low morale for a while) are receiving more attention for the lack of trust and enthusiasm among employees.
While the survey doesn’t provide legitimate solutions for this nationwide problem, it does provide one valuable piece of evidence: government agency employees still believe that their jobs matter. They may not have the same faith in their senior officials, but when the majority of a workforce believes that their work is important, increasing morale and trust is incredibly feasible.
Some government employees are hinting that the federal scandals and budget cuts aren’t entirely to blame for their mistrust — rather, the fact that senior officials and management departments failed to stand behind their employees was the catalyst for widespread discouragement.
While it isn’t certain how these federal agencies will address the problem of low morale, it’s clear that senior leaders need to start brainstorming new ways to motivate and validate the work of their employees. Otherwise, employees might start to doubt their own work soon, and increasing morale will be harder than ever.