SEA Releases Report on Results of Member Survey on At Will Employment in the Senior Executive Service

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Washington, D.C. – The Senior Executives Association report, "At Will Employment in the Senior Executive Service: Promoting Accountability or Threatening Federal Government Effectiveness and Senior Management Capability?" is based on a survey of SEA members from August 20 to September 19, 2014. The survey was undertaken following the enactment of legislation with regard to career SES employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and in response to continued conversation in Congress about making the federal workforce generally, and the SES specifically, at will employees.

SEA has vigorously opposed Congressional "at will" employment (AWE) legislative proposals both at the Department of Veterans Affairs and government-wide. The report highlights the negative consequences of an at will employment system in the federal government.

The results of SEA's survey evidence high degrees of fear, frustration and demoralization regarding the notion of at will employment and the prospects that further erosion of employment security for career Senior Executives and Senior Professionals could take place if Congressional proposals become law. Many current career executives and professionals responding to the survey commented that they would seek (and in some cases already have initiated action) to retire, move to the private sector or even search for a lower level career position (e.g., GS-15) if AWE is enacted. Many also indicated they could not, in good conscience, advise talented subordinates and other high potential prospective candidates for future career SES and SP jobs to pursue them if AWE legislation is passed. In many cases, retiree survey respondents remarked that things have generally gotten worse for career Senior Executives and Professionals since their departure from government. Some also commented that if AWE had been in place during their tenure, they would have retired earlier or never signed up to serve in their demanding positions.

SEA's detailed survey analysis reflects five major key findings that are supported by data and respondents' written comments. In most instances, survey responses and sentiments among current employee respondents and retiree respondents are very similar and reinforcing in nature. The five major key findings are as follows:

• At will employment legislation is overwhelmingly viewed as a bad idea

• Enactment of at will employment legislation would have a highly damaging impact on career SES recruitment and retention and further erode morale within the government's executive ranks

• At will employment would lead to politicization of the SES system, subjugation of career executives and suppression and deterioration of relationships between career managers and political appointees as well as other government stakeholders

• At will employment would be harmful to the efficiency, effectiveness, integrity, productivity, innovation and operational stability of government, as well as the public's confidence in it

• Current laws, government-wide regulations and agency management tools and flexibilities provide ample authority for holding career executives accountable for satisfactory performance and conduct

The Senior Executives Association (SEA) is a professional association representing Senior Executive Service members and other career federal executives. Founded in 1980, SEA's goals are: to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of the federal government; to advance the professionalism and advocate the interests of career federal executives; and to enhance public recognition of their contributions. The SEA Professional Development League (PDL) is a nonprofit educational organization committed to advancing the professionalism of career federal executives through the sponsorship of training, recognition, and research activities.