Washington, DC — U.S. Forest Service employees do not think very highly of their agency’s leadership, according to survey results released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Most Forest Service professionals lack basic respect for top managers, even doubting their honesty.
These startling results are found in a document called “Forest Service FEVS [Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey] Analysis and Recommendations” dated March 28, 2013 but circulated recently inside the agency. Compiled by a consulting company named CI International, it summarizes agency-wide survey results, including a breakdown of survey responses from each Forest Service division.
The survey found that overwhelming majorities of employee respondents like what they do, believe it is important and feel there is mutual respect with their immediate supervisors. Those positive perspectives are reversed, however, with respect to views expressed about Forest Service leadership:
• “Senior leaders are not well respected (only 37%). An overwhelming majority of employees do not agree with their policies and practices (only 29%)”;
• “Just over half of employees agree agency is accomplishing its mission (55%) and is a good place to work (57%)” ; and
• Leadership is unable to generate “high-levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce (only 30%) or as standards of honesty and integrity (only 45%).”
“This is one of the most resounding workforce votes of no confidence I have ever seen,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this latest poll is consistent with employees ranking the Forest Service 254th out of 292 federal agency components in the 2012 Best Places to Work survey. “These survey results suggest that if the Forest Service was a country it would be ripe for an Arab Spring.”
By far, the most negative scores were registered by the Law Enforcement & Investigations division. A 2011 management review found that habitually troubled Forest Service law enforcement “is a broken system from top to bottom.” One indication of the level of dysfunction is that earlier this year top LE&I managers received hefty raises amidst sequester-induced cutbacks.
“By retaining a widely disrespected and despised law enforcement leadership, the Forest Service is, in essence, giving its professional staff the middle finger,” added Ruch. “In order to begin winning back their employees, the Forest Service needs to lop off management deadwood, starting with law enforcement.”