Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

Why is the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) such a flawed method with which to evaluate government employees and the agencies they work for?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) was created to provide a way for federal employees to share their opinions about various aspects of their position and the agency in which they work; these include work experiences and leadership. The US federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website states that the survey

measures employees' perceptions of whether, and to what extent, conditions characteristic of successful organizations are present in their agencies.

An underlying idea is that the results will aid managers in seeing where improvements have been made and where they are needed. Earlier versions of the survey were administered since 2002, and annual administration of the FEVS began in 2010. Not only full-time, permanent employees, but also part-time, non-seasonal employees are surveyed.

One major criticism of the FEVS centers not on its content or administration but on the low rate of return. In 2018, 40.6% of potential respondents submitted surveys, and in 2019, the percentage increased to 42.6%. Thus, the results are not an accurate measurement of overall opinion.

The highly subjective character of most questions is also an issue. Respondents’ interpretations are likely to vary widely to questions about such topics as rewards for creativity and innovation, or for meaningful recognition of performance.

Another criticism centers on the intended and actual use of the results. Because the respondents self-select, the employees who are least satisfied with the work environment are also the least likely to participate. Especially in smaller units, dissatisfied employees may fear that, despite supposed anonymity, they will be identified and subject to reprisal for giving negative evaluations of supervisors. Low diversity and racial bias may also be indicated by positive results, as white employees in predominantly white agencies may express higher satisfaction and thus contribute to perpetuating a non-diverse status quo. Although administrators will gain access to data that might include negative perceptions their agency or divisions within it, they are not required to implement any changes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team