For Immediate Release: May 10, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Federal Employees No Longer Asked to Assess Trump Appointees
2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Changes Definition of “Senior Leadership”
Washington, DC — The official annual survey of federal employees no longer asks them to rate their agency heads or top political leaders, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, federal workers must confine their opinions to the “nearest senior executive.”
Every year since 2002, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has conducted a Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the results of which measure employee morale, engagement, and other perceptions about their agencies. The survey asks questions about “senior leadership” such as –
- “How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of senior leaders”
- Do you “have a high level of respect for your senior leaders”
- Do your “senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity”
The definition for “senior leaders” in prior surveys was: “The heads of departments/agencies and their immediate leadership team responsible for directing the policies and priorities of the department/agency. May hold either a political or career appointment…”
OPM changed that definition for the 2018 survey to mean: “The nearest senior executive (SES, Director, or higher-level GS [i.e., civil servant] in your organizational structure…” (Emphasis added). Thus, unless the employee was a direct or second level report to a political appointee, what the person thought of that top official is now outside the scope of the survey.
“It is understandable why Trump appointees would not want to know what civil servants really thought of them,” remarked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this week (May 6-12) marks Public Service Recognition Week. “Unfortunately, this administration seems to prefer public servants should be seen but not heard.”
In an April 4 memo to department heads about this year’s survey, OPM Director Jeff Pon wrote that the 2018 “Improvements include: (1) clarifications to definitions (e.g., leadership….)” He stated that these “Improvements are based on recommendations from agency stakeholders” but does not identify them, indicate what they recommended, or explain why the changes enhance the value of results.
“This change diminishes the worth of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey,” added Ruch, pointing out that employees in large agencies no longer know which top officials they are supposed to rate. “Perhaps future surveys should be removed from OPM control to prevent further political tampering.”