Carol Bonasaro, the president of the Senior Executive Association, says the biggest issue is what she calls bureaucrat bashing. She says it’s been a particularly trying year for federal managers.
“What’s certainly different now, in the past it was just the verbal bashing in large part. But now certainly to see very specific proposals to cut pay, furlough employees, cut benefits, cut the workforce, it’s a far different environment,” Bonasaro says. “We understand the economic and political realities, but the fact is we’re in very challenging times and I think it’s very tough for a lot of executives and managers to meet expectations given these circumstances.”
Bonasaro says the age of pay freezes may be an overall problem for managers, however not at the executive level.
“I don’t really expect that to be a problem,” Bonasaro said. “These people are working incredible hours as it is, so I’m sure they’re going to continue to devote themselves to their jobs. My concern is that an awful lot of them are eligible for retirement. If we lose a substantial number to retirement we are really going to be in trouble because I think the loss of that institutional memory, their capability, is a first class problem.”
The Senior Executive Association created a survey earlier this year for Senior Executive Service and potential SES employees.
“The fact is that about half of those that took the survey still expressed interested in aspiring to the SES ranks but the major deterrent was the lack of work/life balance,” Bonasaro said. “Clearly they look around and they can see the kind of hours that these people put in. Interestingly enough, what was not high on the hit parade was the pay situation, lack of locality pay, but then about 25% of them wrote extensive comments about the fact that pay was a problem.”
Bonasaro says there are other benefits to the SES besides pay.
“There are other pieces to this issue, for example the ability when you are in the SES to contribute fully to the mission of your agency which has to do with communication between political appointees and careerists, and also frankly, back to that favorite old topic of too many political appointees, too much layering.”