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Morale dropped in Pompeo's office in 2019, survey finds

Posted December 18, 2019 4:58 p.m. EST

— Morale in the office of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dropped substantially in 2019, according to a report released Tuesday.

In a survey conducted months prior to the impeachment inquiry that ensnared the State Department and its chief diplomat, staff in Pompeo's office rated it poorly for effective leadership, teamwork, work-life balance and pay. Although the overall State Department score improved, the decline in the Office of the Secretary suggests that Pompeo's mission to bring "swagger" back to the department isn't being felt by those who work most closely with him.

The "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government" results, released annually by the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group, calculate "satisfaction and commitment of the workforce and the willingness of employees to put forth discretionary effort to achieve results."

The findings are based largely on data from the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which covered "all full-time and part-time, permanent, nonseasonal executive branch employees between May and July 2019," according to the Partnership for Public Service.

The 2019 results for the Office of the Secretary marked a nearly 9-point decline from the prior year, and the office landed in the bottom ranks for agency subcomponents in the federal government.

Broken down by subcategory, some of the sharpest drops involved leadership.

One category, "Effective Leadership: Supervisors," which "measures employee opinions about their immediate supervisor's job performance, how well supervisors give employees the opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills and the extent to which employees feel supervisors support employee development and provide worthwhile feedback about job performance," dropped by more than 15 points.

Ratings in another category, "Effective Leadership: Senior Leaders," which "measures the level of respect employees have for senior leaders, satisfaction with the amount of information provided by management and perceptions about senior leaders' honesty, integrity and ability to motivate employees," fell nearly 13 points.

Attitudes about teamwork also drastically declined.

The only improvement in the Office of the Secretary was in the "Employee Skill--Mission Match" subcategory, which "measures the extent to which employees feel that their skills and talents are used effectively."


Other offices within the State Department saw increases in their overall scores, including a large jump for the Foreign Service Institute, Office of the Legal Advisor and Bureau of Overseas Building Operations.

The score at the State Department overall improved by 0.6 point.

The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment on the findings.

Morale at the department, particularly among career officials, has been an issue under the Trump administration. President Donald Trump's first chief diplomat, Rex Tillerson, instituted deep cuts that left the department demoralized and downsized.

Pompeo has sought to repair morale, vowing to bring the "swagger" back to America's oldest Cabinet agency. However, some officials who have spoken with CNN suggest that the goodwill Pompeo garnered at the beginning of his tenure has been tarnished by his responses to two inspector general reports and the impeachment inquiry. These developments occurred after the survey measuring employee satisfaction was distributed.

The first State Department inspector general report, released in mid-August, found that top officials in the department's Bureau of International Organization Affairs subjected employees to "disrespectful and hostile treatment," accusations of disloyalty, and retaliation.

The report also said the bureau's leadership "did not take significant action" to address these concerns.

The second report, released in mid-November, concluded that high-ranking Trump administration political appointees within the department had improperly retaliated against a career civil servant. One senior aide to Pompeo named in the report, Iran envoy Brian Hook, remains in his post.

Morale has dropped further as Pompeo has failed to defend his department and diplomats in the face of attacks from the President. Trump has lashed out at the State Department officials who became witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry. He smeared former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on multiple occasions. Pompeo has offered sparse and general words of support for these diplomats. In her public testimony, Yovanovitch told lawmakers, "I remain disappointed that the department's leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong."

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