Last month Government Executive did a survey asking federal employees whether they would continue working for the government if Donald Trump won the election. Almost one third of those responding said they would consider leaving their jobs if Trump defeated Clinton.
A Government Business Council/ GovExec.com survey found that 14 percent of federal workers say they would definitely consider leaving their jobs if Donald Trump wins the Nov. 8 presidential election. Another 13 percent said they might consider leaving, while 9 percent said they did not know. That leaves just 65 percent of federal workers who say they would stay for a Trump administration.
There has indeed been a great deal of anxiety and fear since the election, but are feds really going to quit and find work in the private sector? That’s a scary place for people who enjoy virtually guaranteed job security until retirement. In the private sector, promotions often require more than just seniority and there’s always the threat of losing one’s job because of economic conditions.
Federal employees console one another with fictions about how their private sector counterparts earn so much more than they who sacrifice to serve the motherland, but for most a federal job is a pretty cushy position. They don’t like it when something threatens to change their working conditions, erode their fiefdoms, or—heaven forbid—reduce their numbers.
U.S. EPA employees were in tears. Worried Energy Department staffers were offered counseling. Some federal employees were so depressed, they took time off. Others might retire early.
And some employees are in downright panic mode in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory.
“People are upset. Some people took the day off because they were depressed,” said John O’Grady, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, a union that represents thousands of EPA employees. After Election Day, “people were crying,” added O’Grady, who works in EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago. “They were recommending that people take sick leave and go home.”
There’s no indication yet whether the government will need to bring in puppies and coloring books for the afflicted.
Things looked bleak at another unnecessary agency across town.
Some DOE employees are feeling glum, too.
“I think it’s a sadness and a worry about just how far someone will go, especially when you never believe anything he says,” said one longtime Energy Department employee. “Many of us have worked in both the Bush and the Obama administrations, and I don’t think that we feel like it will be like just going back to Bush again.”
The DOE employee added, “We know that now more than ever, it is important to do whatever we can to do a good job in the areas that we care about. … What we can do is not lose sight of whatever ideals brought us to this work in the first place.”
For many like this respondent to a Federal News Radio survey, working to regulate the lives and businesses of others is a calling rather than just a job.
“I cannot, will not work for this new administration,” another respondent said. “Trump is hateful, deceitful, and is not interested in the how the federal government impacts the betterment of the lives of the ordinary Americans I serve.”
The old adage says politics is just show business for the ugly. If politicians are the Washington equivalent of movie stars, then federal employees are their entourage. They have Potomac Fever. Much like the celebrities threatening to move to Canada or elsewhere, feds who said they would quit if Trump became president were probably mostly lying.