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Worst government agencies to work for

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January 21, 2022
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Worst government agencies to work for

If you're job-hunting, you're probably going to come across openings in the federal government at some point during your search regardless of your industry. Around 2.93 million people had federal jobs in 2020. And while the opportunity to make a difference is one major reason why people initially pursue careers in the government, the employment benefits that come with federal jobs help them stick around. Workers have access to competitive salaries, paid vacation time, health insurance, and retirement plans, among other perks.

But despite the benefits, some government agencies can be more demanding of employers than others—a fact that's become all the more apparent with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. To determine which agencies are the worst to work for, Stacker analyzed data from the Partnership for Public Service's Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings that are based mainly on a 2020 survey collected by the Office of Personnel Management. The survey was completed between September and November 2020 by 624,800 government-agency employees who are permanent full-time or part-time workers. Our list includes the 35 lowest-ranked agencies according to their 2020 employee engagement score out of 100. The score that is weighted with the help of three questions from the survey: 1) Do you recommend your organization as a good place to work; 2) Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job 3) Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization? The employee engagement scores from 2019 and the workforce size of each agency are included in the list, as well.

While some of the agencies on this list have above-average employee engagement scores, others have plenty of room for improvement. Read on to see which government agencies you might want to cross off your list of places to apply.

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#35. Department of Housing and Urban Development

- 2020 employee engagement score: 71.3 (3.3% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 59.9
- One-year score change: +11.4
- Agency workforce size: midsize

The Department of Housing and Urban Development focuses on addressing American housing needs through national policies and programs. Only a small percentage of the people who work at this agency are satisfied with their opportunities to get a more fulfilling job at the department.

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#34. Office of Personnel Management

- 2020 employee engagement score: 71.1 (3% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 67.1
- One-year score change: +4
- Agency workforce size: midsize

The Office of Personnel Management handles the civil services of the federal government. Tasks include managing benefits and health insurance for government employees, while also organizing and executing recruitment efforts and offering opportunities for internships and scholarhsips.

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#33. Small Business Administration

- 2020 employee engagement score: 71.1 (3% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 64.5
- One-year score change: +6.6
- Agency workforce size: midsize

This federal agency provides support for entrepreneurs and small businesses, including things like disaster relief loans and help during COVID-19. The Small Business Administration and Business Forward in January 2022 announced the commencement of the Small Business Digital Alliance, a venture bringing together entrepreneurs and tech companies to offer new tools for growing e-commerce platforms.

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#32. Department of Veterans Affairs

- 2020 employee engagement score: 70 (1.4% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 65.3
- One-year score change: +4.7
- Agency workforce size: large

The Department of Veterans Affairs is a cabinet-level federal agency tasked with offering lifetime health care services to eligible military veterans at VA medical centers and clinics across the U.S. VA hospitals offered a literal lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, opening their ICUS to non-veterans to make up for civilian hospitals at capacity.

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#31. Department of the Navy

- 2020 employee engagement score: 69.9 (1.3% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 61.7
- One-year score change: +8.2
- Agency workforce size: large

The Department of the Navy employs members of the military as well as civilians in high-demand fields such as nuclear operations, nursing, information systems technology, and healthcare. Its mission is to make sure the country has combat-ready naval forces who can win wars and maintain "the freedom of the seas."

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#30. National Archives and Records Administration

- 2020 employee engagement score: 69.7 (1% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 55.4
- One-year score change: +14.3
- Agency workforce size: midsize

Considered "the nation's record keeper," this agency manages documents and materials from the government that are of legal or historical importance. Some areas of improvement for the National Archives and Records Administration as a workplace include pay-raise criteria, promotion opportunities, and providing sufficient resources to staff.

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#29. Department of the Air Force

- 2020 employee engagement score: 69.5 (0.7% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 59.4
- One-year score change: +10.1
- Agency workforce size: large

The Air Force employs full-time active-duty members and civil service employees, as well as part-timers in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. It offers employees the ability to pursue more than 200 different career interests, including natural science, law enforcement, missiles, space, and logistics.

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#28. Export-Import Bank of the United States

- 2020 employee engagement score: 69.3 (0.4% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 45.9
- One-year score change: +23.4
- Agency workforce size: small

This agency provides financing tools to American businesses so they can compete in global sales. Its workforce consists of economists, business development specialists, attorney-advisers, engineers, loan specialists, and resource management professionals.

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#27. Department of the Army

- 2020 employee engagement score: 69.2 (0.3% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 63.7
- One-year score change: +5.5
- Agency workforce size: large

The Department of the Army does more than organize and train military forces—it also runs programs dedicated to protecting the environment, controlling floods, developing water resources, and improving waterway navigation. In 2019, it began overhauling its promotion process to base employee advancements on merit rather than time served, which could impact job satisfaction rates.

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#26. Department of Labor

- 2020 employee engagement score: 69.2 (0.3% higher than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 61.8
- One-year score change: +7.4
- Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency dedicates itself to promoting the welfare of workers, improving workplace conditions, and protecting employment-related rights and benefits. While the vast majority of employees at the Department of Labor feel that they do important work, more than a third of workers say they are lacking sufficient resources to get their jobs done.

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#25. US Agency for International Development

- 2020 employee engagement score: 68.7 (0.4% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 65.4
- One-year score change: +3.3
- Agency workforce size: midsize

This federal agency mostly works to distribute civilian foreign aid and development assistance. A new program seeks to roll out anticipatory action ahead of things like weather disasters to help communities and regions be better prepared.

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KAREN BLEIER/AFP // Getty Images

#24. Millennium Challenge Corporation

- 2020 employee engagement score: 68.5 (0.7% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 63.8
- One-year score change: +4.7
- Agency workforce size: small

Founded in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation helps fight global poverty by offering grants to developing countries. It hires a variety of highly educated professionals, like economists and international attorneys. Despite having relatively low engagement scores, the agency has seen its employee satisfaction scores increase at higher-than-average rates in recent years.

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#23. Railroad Retirement Board

- 2020 employee engagement score: 68.4 (0.9% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 63.6
- One-year score change: +4.8
- Agency workforce size: small

The Railroad Retirement Board runs employment benefit programs, including retirement, unemployment insurance, and sick pay, for railroad workers. While the agency has overall decent employee engagement scores, it has room for improvement in the area of talent management.

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#22. Commodity Futures Trading Commission

- 2020 employee engagement score: 67.9 (1.6% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 60.9
- One-year score change: +7
- Agency workforce size: small

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulates futures trading to maintain the integrity of the derivatives markets. It employs attorneys, auditors, economists, management professionals, and futures-trading investigators.

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#21. Environmental Protection Agency

- 2020 employee engagement score: 67.9 (1.6% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 60.3
- One-year score change: +7.6
- Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency works to maintain the cleanliness of the country's air, land, and water to protect human health. Scientists and legal professionals are among the top occupations employed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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#20. Department of the Interior

- 2020 employee engagement score: 67.3 (2.5% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 62.2
- One-year score change: +5.1
- Agency workforce size: large

Around 70,000 people work at the Department of the Interior, running programs like the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Land Management. Not everyone who is employed at this agency spends their workdays in the great outdoors. It employs professionals in more than 300 occupations, including electrical engineers, auditors, grants management specialists, and mechanics.

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#19. Department of Justice

- 2020 employee engagement score: 67.2 (2.6% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 61.4
- One-year score change: +5.8
- Agency workforce size: large

Criminal investigators, correctional officers, forensic scientists, and attorneys are among the professionals employed by the Department of Justice. The agency is responsible for law enforcement, public safety, and administering justice.

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#18. Federal Election Commission

- 2020 employee engagement score: 66.6 (3.5% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 49.7
- One-year score change: +16.9
- Agency workforce size: small

The Federal Election Commission administers and enforces campaign finance. Only 28% of workers at this agency feel that compensation increases are related to on-the-job performance.

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#17. Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

- 2020 employee engagement score: 66.5 (3.6% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 59.2
- One-year score change: +7.3
- Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency provides supervision to people on probation or parole. Many employees of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency don't feel that promotions are based on merit and that necessary steps are taken to address workers who are performing poorly.

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#16. Office of the US Trade Representative

- 2020 employee engagement score: 66.3 (3.9% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 64
- One-year score change: +2.3
- Agency workforce size: small

More than 200 people work at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which is responsible for negotiating trade agreements and resolving disputes with foreign governments, as well as collecting input on trade issues from various stakeholders. The agency has played a major role in liaising with China on the recent trade deal and import-export tariffs. It employs people with training in trade negotiations and foreign affairs, as well as support staff, like information technology and human resources professionals.

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#15. Department of State

- 2020 employee engagement score: 65.6 (4.9% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 61.3
- One-year score change: +4.3
- Agency workforce size: large

The Department of State pushes American foreign policy forward through diplomacy and advocacy. More than half of employees feel the agency does not base salary increases on job performance.

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#14. National Gallery of Art

- 2020 employee engagement score: 65.1 (5.7% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 64.2
- One-year score change: +0.9
- Agency workforce size: small

Located in Washington D.C., the National Gallery of Art is a cultural institution that displays works from its collection of more than 150,000 pieces of Western art. The agency may be a prestigious place to work if you have a degree in art history or design. However, it also employs support staff, like salespeople, security guards, and accountants, who may not feel as engaged in their workplace.

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#13. Federal Labor Relations Authority

- 2020 employee engagement score: 64.6 (6.4% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 41.8
- One-year score change: +22.8
- Agency workforce size: small

This agency runs the labor-management relations program for more than 2 million federal employees. Past surveys show employees in this department lack confidence in their senior leaders' honesty.

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#12. Social Security Administration

- 2020 employee engagement score: 64.5 (6.5% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 59.8
- One-year score change: +4.7
- Agency workforce size: large

Among the largest independent federal agencies, the Social Security Administration has a workforce of more than 60,000 employees. It offers nine different career paths, from legal and law enforcement to admin support and finance.

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#11. National Endowment for the Humanities

- 2020 employee engagement score: 64.4 (6.7% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 67.3
- One-year score change: -2.9
- Agency workforce size: small

This agency, created from the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, supports education, preservation, research, and public programs within the humanities. The National Endowment for the Humanities in January 2022 announced $24.7 million in new grants for 208 organizations around the country, from single-person projects to exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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#10. Department of Agriculture

- 2020 employee engagement score: 64.3 (6.8% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 56.5
- One-year score change: +7.8
- Agency workforce size: large

The Department of Agriculture works on a myriad of issues, including food, agriculture, nutrition, and natural resources. Fewer than half of workers at this agency feel that they have a reasonable workload and sufficient resources to complete their duties.

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#9. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

- 2020 employee engagement score: 63.5 (8% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 58.4
- One-year score change: +5.1
- Agency workforce size: midsize

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides regulations on consumer financial products and services and educates the public on making financial decisions. Its purported role is to ensure financial companies including banks and lenders have fair policies and treat individuals equitably.

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#8. Department of Homeland Security

- 2020 employee engagement score: 61.1 (11.4% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 52.3
- One-year score change: +8.8
- Agency workforce size: large

The Department of Homeland Security works to keep the country safe from threats. It employs more than 240,000 people, half of whom have worked at the agency for 11 or more years.

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#7. US International Development Finance Corporation

- 2020 employee engagement score: 60.6 (12.2% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 61.8
- One-year score change: -1.2
- Agency workforce size: small

This agency serves as the federal government's development finance institution. The Development Finance Corporation executes on development projects around the world with various-sized investments.

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#6. Department of Education

- 2020 employee engagement score: 57.9 (16.1% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 43.7
- One-year score change: +14.2
- Agency workforce size: midsize

The Department of Education has 4,400 employees who help advance its mission to promote academic achievement for students and ensure equal access to educational opportunities. It employs education program specialists, attorneys, program analysts, education research scientists, and information technology specialists, among other professionals.

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#5. International Boundary and Water Commission

- 2020 employee engagement score: 55.9 (19% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 58.1
- One-year score change: -2.2
- Agency workforce size: small

This agency creates solutions to issues that come up around water in the border region between the U.S. and Mexico. It employs people from a variety of professional areas, including foreign affairs, human resources, public affairs, environmental management, and law.

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#4. Corporation for National and Community Service

- 2020 employee engagement score: 55.8 (19.1% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 39.3
- One-year score change: +16.5
- Agency workforce size: small

This agency runs service and volunteer programs, like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Volunteer Generation Fund. It is transitioning to a new regional structure that may change employees' experience working for this agency.

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#3. National Labor Relations Board

- 2020 employee engagement score: 54.7 (20.7% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 48.1
- One-year score change: +6.6
- Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency is charged with protecting workers' rights to organize and dealing with unfair labor practices. It employs more than 800 attorneys across the nation, along with field examiners who work in regional offices.

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#2. Office of Management and Budget

- 2020 employee engagement score: 54.6 (20.9% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 76.3
- One-year score change: -21.7
- Agency workforce size: small

Office of Management and Budget, the biggest office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States, executes the president's vision across the executive branch. The agency, formed in 1939, is responsible for jobs such as coordinating management procedures and program objectives.

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#1. US Agency for Global Media

- 2020 employee engagement score: 53 (23.2% lower than government-wide score)
- 2019 employee engagement score: 53.7
- One-year score change: -0.7
- Agency workforce size: midsize

This agency consists of five media organizations that promote freedom and democracy to more than 350 million people around the world. It primarily hires media professionals, including correspondents, broadcasters, and producers.

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