Assiduous readers will recall that Forest Service employees generally think poorly of their agency, according to the annual “Best Places to Work” polling. Dissatisfaction with the Forest Service cuts across the demographic spectrum — young, old, black, white, male, female.
With one exception. If you are fortunate enough to be one of the Forest Service’s cadre of Senior Executive Service employees (e.g., chief, deputy chief, regional forester, and the like), you’re pretty happy about your workplace. SES employees give the Forest Service a score of “86” out of 100 as a workplace, compared to scores in the 50’s by every other employee group.
GAO’s recently-released report “OPM Needs to Do More to Ensure Meaningful Distinctions Are Made in SES Ratings and Performance Awards” sheds some light on SES employee job satisfaction. The report takes departments to task for inflated performance ratings and associated cash bonuses. It turns out that in the SES everyone is above average — way above average. USDA gave over 95% of its SES employees a performance rating of “5 – outstanding” or “4 – exceeds fully successful,” the two highest scores on the 5-point scale (government-wide, 85% of SES employees received a 4 or 5 rating). SES employees who score below a “3” are ineligible for performance awards.
USDA gave performance awards of 5-6% (about $10,000) to 100% of its SES employees with a 4 or 5 rating. In other words, over 95% of USDA’s SES employees received a nice pay bump.
Imagine what the performance ratings and bonuses would be if the Forest Service’s employees ranked their superiors.