Perceived Effectiveness of Leadership in Federal Agencies

Effective leadership within federal agencies directly impacts the fulfillment of organizational missions and employee satisfaction. It also impacts the quality of products and services rendered to U.S. citizens. Recent studies suggest satisfaction among federal employees is particularly low relative to private sector workers. The data collected suggests major improvement is needed in leadership effectiveness and organizational structure.

Low and Downward Trend in Leadership Ratings

According to an analysis of Best Places to Work in the Federal Government by the Partnership for Public Service, federal employees have given their leaders mediocre or poor ratings for years. In 2012, the study reported a leadership effectiveness score of 52.8 on a scale of 100 for federal leaders. This score was 2.1 points lower than the 2011 rating. The effective leadership category is comprised of four elements: views of senior leadership, support and effectiveness of direct supervisors, employee empowerment, and fairness. In particular, there was a drop in the area of how federal employees rated their senior leaders. Only half of the respondents stated they had a high level of respect for senior leaders or believed senior leaders had high standards of honesty or integrity.

Private Sector versus Public Sector Satisfaction

The data shows private sector employees are more satisfied with work and the quality of their leadership. Federal leaders have more difficulty communicating effectively within their agencies compared to leaders in private enterprises. The Government trails behind private sector leaders by 17 points when it comes to satisfaction with communication of organizational objectives. This is a critical issue for federal leaders. In order for the Government to be successful in achieving its goals, leaders need to effectively disseminate organizational objectives to employees.

Recommendations for Improvement

Federal employees are living in a time of uncertainty. Budget cuts, layoffs and re-organization directly impact job security and satisfaction. In these uncertain times, federal leaders have the ability to positively influence employee behavior and work culture through effective leadership.

According to the Partnership for Public Service, the following recommendations will help federal leaders improve their effectiveness:

    • Clearly communicate the mission and tie employee performance back to objectives
    • Implement employee recognition programs and develop working relationships with subordinates
    • Empower employees and conduct interviews to gain valuable feedback on organizational challenges
    • Utilize clear communication plans including town halls, focus groups and staff meetings

Leadership effectiveness impacts organizational goals, employee satisfaction and the quality of products and services rendered to U.S. citizens. Leadership effectiveness ratings are trending downwards and are well below ratings seen in the private sector. Substantial improvement is needed among the leadership of federal agencies in order for employee satisfaction to improve.

To continue the discussion on improving leadership in federal agencies, contact us.

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