Worst Place to Work in U.S. Government? Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

Monday, December 17, 2012
Ron Kirk

The results of the seventh annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey are in, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) scored an unwanted upset by taking the title of Worst Place to Work in the U.S. Government. With a score of 32.7, it took the leaden crown from last year’s worst, the Office of Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which does not appear in the 2012 rankings.


Produced by the Partnership for Public Service, the survey is based on responses from more than 687,000 federal employees in 362 agencies and subcomponents.


Created in 1962 as part of the Executive Office of the President, the USTR functions as the president’s lead negotiator on all international trade issues. The agency has seen its score decline by more than half—from 74.2 to 32.7—since 2009, when former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk took the helm from Susan Schwab.


Other sub-40 low scores were posted by the Federal Maritime Commission (34.7), Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (34.7), Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Commerce (37.2), Office of Intelligence and Analysis in DHS (37.4) and Office of Postsecondary Education (37.7).


For a variety of categories, including pay, work/life balance, teamwork and leadership, the survey aggregates scores and provides separate category-specific rankings. Not surprisingly, the lowest score for senior leaders (18.6) went to Kirk’s USTR, followed at 26.7, by the Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr.-led Federal Maritime Commission.


At the other end of the scale—the good end—the U.S. Army Audit Agency took first place with a score of 85.7, followed closely by last year’s winner, the Surface Transportation Board at 84.3. Other high scores were posted by the John C. Stennis Space Center (NASA) (84.2), Congressional Budget Office (84.2), and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (82.4).


The best senior leaders rankings were earned by Daniel Elliott’s Surface Transportation Board (76.7), Richard Gilbrech’s John C. Stennis Space Center (76.6), the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (72.9), led by Peter Winokur, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (72.6), which is chaired by Carol Waller Pope and the Department of Justice’s Civil Division (71.2), which is led by Stuart Delery.


In general, the rankings were at an all-time low across the board, as morale among federal workers continues to suffer from the present climate of budget austerity, which has included high-profile political attacks on federal employees and a pay freeze.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government 2012 Rankings (Partnership for Public Service)

The Big Picture (Partnership for Public Service)

At Federal Government Agencies, Survey Finds Sagging Job Satisfaction (by Lisa Rein, Washington Post)

Employee Satisfaction Dips by Record Margin, with Pay Taking Biggest Plunge (by Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Worst Federal Agency to Work For: Newcomer Ousts Usual Suspects (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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