Government employees

Report: 99 Percent of Federal Workers Are Totally Good at Their Jobs

The Government Accountability Office wonders if "a cultural shift might be needed" on employee evaluations.


The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new report about worker performance that can be briefly summarized as: Everything is awesome (or was in 2013 at least, the most recent year for which there is complete data). 

The federal government's in-house auditing body found that the rank-and-file of the federal workforce is almost uniformly good at their jobs according to employee evaluations, with 99 percent ranked as "fully successful" or better.

Congressional Budget Office

A similarly impressive 78 percent of higher-level workers were ranked as outstanding or fully successful.

Congressional Budget Office

The performance evaluation system used for most federal employees has five levels: unacceptable, minimally successful, fully successful, exceeds fully successful and outstanding. Less than 1 percent received the bottom to evaluations. Fully 74 percent received ratings in the top two levels, with 38.6 percent of employees rated "outstanding," 35.1 percent got "exceeds fully successful," and 25.5 percent were "fully successful." 

"Apparently the federal bureaucrats grading one another think virtually everyone who works for the government is doing a fantastic job," Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said in a statement quoted in The Washington Post. "But given the dysfunction we've seen throughout the federal government over the last several years, that can't possibly be true."

With its trademark dryness, the GAO notes that when it comes to performance reviews, "a cultural shift might be needed among agencies and employees." 

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  1. Not surprising. They’re our betters. How can our betters be less than successful?

  2. I’m getting my Green Card renewed. Response time is measured in hundreds of days.

    1. You mean you’re getting a 10 year card renewed? You should just go for citizenship, it’s easier and quicker.

      1. I have my reasons.

        1. You don’t want to be MURIKAN! WHY COME YOU DONT WANT BE MURIKAN!?!

          I understand, I don’t want to be murikan anymore either most of the time, but my hyperdrive ship is not completed yet so I can make my escape.

          1. I like my excuse for not voting. Especially this year.

            1. When one of my colleagues (finally) broke down and became a US [not American! Please!] citizen, I told him he’d no longer be able to blame the Yanks for everything. He disagreed; being one of US, with or without punctuation, doesn’t inhibit him.

          2. You’re not posting from Antarctica are you?

          3. Got any extra seats on that thing?

  3. Imagine that. I do a job where nothing is expected of me and I can’t be fired. Then I rate myself on how good I am. Damn am I ever good.

    1. And you get automatic raises so your rating is meaningless anyway.

      1. Exactly

  4. Took a class one time where the students graded the homework (round robin thing). Nobody even mentioned it. Not so much as a nod. We all just knew we were going to give each other As.

    I wanted so, so badly to compete. But I also didn’t wanna be a dick or ‘that guy’. And didn’t really care that much.

    This is exactly what’s happening here. Surprisingly, when given absolutely zero impetus to screw someone else over for the sake of honesty, pretty much nobody chooses to be honest.

    1. Also, most of these jobs are probably best described as ‘nothing’. Being bad at that job would require doing something.

      1. I think this is the heart of the issue. I have a friend who is leaving the navy this year and has 2 job offers, one from the federal government and one from a private company. The private company is offering more pay, but obviously comes with the “trade-offs” of the private sector. Guess where he is leaning towards?

        1. The one with the pension?

  5. Anything under ‘exceeds fully successful and outstanding’ == no longer breathing and with no pulse or heartbeat.

  6. The remaining 1% are snitches who blew the whistle on the other 99%. They have been dealt with.

    1. Or they failed to follow procedure at one point, and had to be reminded not to have too much initiative.

    2. I assume those 1% are the employees terminated for watching porn or smearing feces on the walls or employees under criminal investigation, but even that may be too optimistic.

      1. I thought all the things you just mentioned are what they’re supposed to be doing? Nothing.left. to.cut. The cupboards are bare.

      2. Or the Secret Service agents who couldn’t adequately conceal their fondness for chatelaines.

  7. As a former federal government employee, here is my take:

    1/3 of federal employees are conscientious and get things done.
    1/3 are okay, attitude-wise, but are doing nothing constructive (not their fault — they’re just not given constructive things to do)
    1/3 will screw off at any opportunity

    1. 1/3 are okay, attitude-wise, but are doing nothing constructive (not their fault — they’re just not given constructive things to do)

      I don’t get it, their boss didn’t tell them to surf pr0n and hit the space bar key every 20 minutes or so? Man, government is getting worse than I thought.

    2. As a former federal government employee, here is my take:

      1/3 of federal employees are conscientious and get things done.
      1/3 are okay, attitude-wise, but are doing nothing constructive (not their fault — they’re just not given constructive things to do)
      1/3 will screw off at any opportunity

      Yep. Also, it’s more work to deal with a negative performance review and the consequences that stem from it than it is to just deem an employee’s efforts acceptable and move on.

      1. And, if it goes beyond a negative performance review because the employee is terrible and should be fired, the supervisor (if he’s willing to go the extra mile) can do all the necessary documentation and then, after months or years, have an arbitrator tell him, “eh, let’s give the guy one more chance.”

    3. Also as a former federal employee, I can’t completely disagree.

      I’d add that one reason people aren’t rated the lowest two is because it becomes a nightmare for any supervisor who tries to do so.

      The federal government is best explained using Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:…../iron.html

      “Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

      “First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

      “Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

      “The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.”

      1. Police officer’s organizations should be on that list, too.

    4. And the 1/3 that are productive are enforcing the regulations that stop the productive people in the private economy from being productive? Being productive suddenly sounds counterproductive.

      1. The G in the GDP equation should be preceded by a minus sign.

    5. I think that’s true. I work in a prison mental health department, and I really can’t say that the “lazy govt. employee” stereotype applies to anyone in that department. The therapists really try hard to get their clients the treatment they need in order to manage their issues and be a productive member of society after release. I’ve seen them really go the extra mile lots of times, even when they could skate by with slacking off.

      The problem is that they’re often hamstrung by “policy”. For those who have never worked a state job, policy is law; policy is God; policy is inviolable. The policies require them to spend time on a bunch of stupid shit when they have clients who need to be seen. Naturally, the people who write these policies are bigwig state administrators who aren’t actually “in the trenches” to witness the difficulty of implementing them.

      Of course, there are some really terrible employees there as well. The IT administrator is notorious for not getting shit done, so much that when she is seen walking around the compound, the other staff yell to each other, “a sighting! She actually left her office!”

  8. So, folks that get to grade their own papers get straight ‘A’s? Stunning.

  9. We’ll see what these bitches have to say about that…

  10. 2 minutes till Wopner

  11. I always knew John was a 1%er.

  12. Looks like Rico has PM links duty today…

  13. But could they post the Leenks on time?

  14. “Fully Successful” is the new “Unacceptable.”

  15. RE: Report: 99 Percent of Federal Workers Are Totally Good at Their Jobs
    The Government Accountability Office wonders if “a cultural shift might be needed” on employee evaluations.

    1. Of course these federal workers are totally good at their jobs.
    That’s why you don’t see any them making mistakes or being reprimanded.
    Besides, what could be a better source of how they do their jobs than the federal employees themselves instead of an outside agency researching this “study.”

    2. The GAO should mind its own business. There is no need for evaluations. The federal workers will tell them that. Isn’t that what this whole study was about in the first place? These federal workers are doing a good job of enslaving all us little people and don’t need the harassment of finding out if they’re oppressing us sufficiently. Whatever happened to taking a slaver’s word as Gospel?
    Trust is the key here.

  16. Totally good enough for government work. The categories on that pie chart are a complete joke though. The options are: Fully Successful, Exceeds Fully Successful, Outstanding, Minimally Successful, and Unacceptable. Unacceptable being the only truly negative category.

  17. Maybe we’re misinterpreting the results. “Outstanding” might mean out standing around when there’s work to be done, but we’d rather it that way because, Christ, you don’t want to have to deal with the disaster that schmuck leaves behind.

    1. Some people are negative-work generators – the more they work, the more work they create for other people fixing what they’ve done.

      1. When what you’re doing is making things worse, the last thing you want is to be more productive.

  18. Remember Healthcare.Gov?

    Those government workers get an A?

    1. Of course they’re getting an A.
      Mostly by federal workers.
      Who else is going to grade them “fairly?”

  19. Well damn, this means we need a hugely expensive remedial training program for those 1 % of federal employees who were not fully successful. We’ll call it The No Bureaucrat Left Behind Act, and it will be issued a blank check, of course.

  20. Hey it all starts at the top where an “imminently qualified” employee can spend her entire five year career as Secretary of State without the need to receive or send even one e-mail with any informative sensitive to the
    diplomatic efforts of the United States!

  21. This reminds me of my time in the Air Force. I had a young Airman who I was actively working to find new employment outside the AF (she was being kicked out, primarily for being just incredibly dumb) and I was forced to write a final EPR (Enlisted Performance Report) on her. AF gives you a rating from 1 (probably going to prison) to 5 (walks on water). Theoretically most people should be a 3 with a few 4s and the very occasional 5 in the mix. The numbers would also seem to indicate that some people should be 2s or even 1s. Not so much. It was so bad that if you didn’t get a 5 it could be a career killer. So, young Airman is being tossed out and I still wasn’t allowed to write her anything lower than a 3. Inflated rating systems are sadly a part of the government.

  22. Shortly after I joined the Navy they completely revamped their evaluation system because of exactly this sort of grade inflation.

    90% of the people were getting ranked between 3.5 and 4.0 (Really Great to Fucking Amazing). It was to the point that every cycle, for the evals meant to be seen by promotion boards you had to put precise wording and punctuation in certain blocks to tell the board that *this guy* was the one who really deserved promotion.

    Then we went to a much more competitive system that makes it harder to inflate grades. Each command is limited in how many people they can drop in each performance slot (Promotable, Early Promote, etc – so if you want the top spot you have to work hard to outclass your peers) and each evaluator has a personal average that the your overall rating is compared to. If your rater has a history of high or low averages then that is taken into consideration reducing the incentive to increase your ratings to make your people more competitive for advancement.

  23. Well if we can’t use the employee evaluations to decide who gets canned when Johnson wins, maybe we can start by laying off everyone who was deemed “non-essential” (even if they are rated “more than fully successful”)?

    1. Non-essential being in the most recent government shutdown.

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