Government Shutdown Demoralized Many Federal Employees The 35-day government shutdown harmed the morale of federal workers, and is likely to make it harder to attract new employees.

Government Shutdown Demoralized Many Federal Employees

Government Shutdown Demoralized Many Federal Employees

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The 35-day government shutdown harmed the morale of federal workers, and is likely to make it harder to attract new employees.


Federal employees who didn't get paid for the last month will receive back wages as soon as the government can process its payrolls. But even after workers get their finances in order, it may take longer to repair morale and the appeal of a federal government job, as NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: For 10 years, Jared Hautamaki has worked at the Environmental Protection Agency as an attorney. He was looking forward to getting back to work today but has just about had it with the federal government as an employer.

JARED HAUTAMAKI: Federal employees are demonized by Congress and industry and the public. It's just not a good place to be.

NAYLOR: Hautamaki says he was already thinking about getting a new job. And after a 35-day shutdown, he predicts he won't be alone.

HAUTAMAKI: I think this is just going to further kill morale. It's going to hurt recruiting. Federal employees are already underpaid. This does nothing to retain stability in the federal workforce.

NAYLOR: Studies have shown federal workforce morale was already on the decline for a number of reasons. The Trump administration instituted a hiring freeze and then a pay freeze. Now, with the shutdown, Max Stier, of the Partnership for Public Service, says working for a federal agency feels even less rewarding, especially for those workers with a sense of mission.

MAX STIER: I think that is what is most troubling for the federal workforce. Yes, it had real financial implications. But even more than that, it disrupted the core value proposition of the job, which is to be able to make a difference, to work for a purpose.

NAYLOR: In a tight job market federal employees, many of whom are highly educated, would likely not have a hard time finding other jobs. Jessica Klement, of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, says the effects of the shutdown are likely to be long lasting.

JESSICA KLEMENT: Federal employees, as I've learned over the years, take great pride in the work that they do for the federal government. And every day for 35 days, they turned on the television and were told, you have nothing to worry about. You're going to get back pay. Or are you even essential if you're not working during this government shutdown? There is untold morale problems coming from this that we'll see play out, I think, over the next few days, weeks and probably even years.

NAYLOR: One area where the impact will be felt into the future is in recruitment. The federal workforce is already aging. There are five times as many IT workers in government over age 60 than under 30. Klement says bringing in younger workers is crucial, but it's not been made any easier over the last month.

KLEMENT: The federal government already has a recruitment problem, right? Less than 7 percent of the workforce is under the age of 30. If you are 22, 23, graduating from college this coming spring, you watched this play out for the last 35 days. Are you saying to yourself, sign me up for that - probably not.

NAYLOR: And especially not with the possibility looming of a renewed shutdown in just a few weeks. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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