The Agencies that Saw the Biggest Gains—and Losses—in Employee Happiness in 2019

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Smaller agencies saw the widest swings in employee morale this year, as measured by the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Happiness among federal employees ticked slightly upward in 2019, according to an annual survey of the government’s workforce, and most large agencies saw only minor changes to their workers’ morale.

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, released by the Office of Personnel Management on Thursday, found that the global satisfaction index, a weighted average of the responses to several questions to gauge federal workers’ happiness, ticked up by one point this year, reaching 65 points out of 100.

Unlike last year, the vast majority of large agencies saw only minor shifts in employee happiness. The Environmental Protection Agency improved its satisfaction score by three points, increasing from 61 in 2018 to 64 this year. The General Services Administration improved by two points over last year, reaching a score of 77, while the Treasury Department saw its satisfaction score grow from 62 in 2018 to 64 this year.

Decreases in large agency morale were similarly minor. The Agriculture Department’s satisfaction index fell by 1 point compared with 2018, hitting a three-year low of 60, while the Education Department saw happiness fall by two points to 50 out of 100 points. The Transportation Department and the Social Security Administration both fell by one point in the morale department, posting scores of 67 and 64, respectively.

However, that trend did not extend to smaller agencies, some of which saw dramatic shifts in employee happiness. Organizations with smaller headcounts are more prone to rapid shifts in employee survey results, as fewer workers make more of an impact on overall responses.

The 10 agencies with at least 100 employees that saw the biggest improvement in satisfaction compared with 2018 were:

  1. Selective Service System: 11 point increase
  2. Office of Special Counsel: 10 point increase
  3. Export-Import Bank: 8 point increase
  4. Office of the U.S. Trade Representative: 8 point increase
  5. Commodity Futures Trading Commission: 4 point increase
  6. Merit Systems Protection Board: 4 point increase
  7. Environmental Protection Agency: 3 point increase
  8. Surface Transportation Board: 3 point increase
  9. Federal Labor Relations Authority: 3 point increase
  10. Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board: 3 point increase

The 10 agencies with at least 100 employees that saw the largest decline in satisfaction compared to last year were:

  1. Corporation for National and Community Service: 20 point decrease
  2. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service: 11 point decrease
  3. National Indian Gaming Commission: 9 point decrease
  4. Overseas Private Investment Corporation: 8 point decrease
  5. Securities and Exchange Commission: 7 point decrease
  6. National Labor Relations Board: 6 point decrease
  7. Consumer Product Safety Commission: 4 point decrease
  8. Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency: 3 point decrease
  9. Education Department: 2 point decrease
  10. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: 2 point decrease

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