Headlines: December 3rd, 2002

Workers in public sector organizations are less satisfied with work then they were last year and they are also less satisfied than those who work in the private sector. This is one of the main findings in the latest survey into employee attitudes by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Levels of satisfaction, trust and commitment are all lower in the public sector. This negative picture of the state of morale reinforces that in the recent Audit Commission report ‘Recruitment and Retention’.A significant finding of the Survey was that workplace satisfaction is adversely affected by lack of trust in senior management. Only one in three people trust senior management “a lot” to look after their best interests. For younger workers aged between 25-29 this figure falls to only 1 in 5. The Institute points to encouraging evidence that senior managers across the public sector are beginning to address the key issues with examples of outstanding leadership and effective work teams right across the sector.

Stress levels are significantly higher in the public than in the private sector. The highest levels are in the NHS with 38 percent and local government 30 percent compared with only 21 percent in the private sector.

The survey underlines the scale of the job to be done in “modernising government”. People working in central government departments and agencies consistently display more negative attitudes than those in other sectors. For example, only 7 per cent of people in central government believe strongly that “the organisation cares about my opinions”. 2 out of 5 feel fairly treated by their managers and supervisors compared with more than half in other sectors. Nearly 50 per cent say that “what happens at work isn’t really important, it’s just my job” – 3 times the percentage in the NHS.

Set against this, public sector workers say they feel more fairly treated compared with last year. They are also more likely to feel that promises have been kept. This probably reflects the additional funding that has been put into the public sector, and more willing recognition of the job which public sector workers do.