Federal Manager's Daily Report

The MSPB has said that its most recent merit principles survey provides insights into motivation of federal employees, including what it called “Confidence in Ability to Perform Successfully,” or CAPS—how strongly employees believe that their actions in the workplace can produce the intended results.

The survey asked employees about issues such as whether employees find a point in setting goals at work in view of outside factors beyond their control, and whether success in the job largely depends on the employee’s own efforts or on such outside factors. Research has shown that “are positively related to higher job performance, greater job satisfaction, more discretionary effort at work, and other positive work outcomes,” MSPB said in a recent publication.

Employees who have more positive views on whether they can make a difference “are more likely to make work plans and carry them out” while those “who believe there is little relationship between their actions and results, are less likely to set and work toward goals,” it said. Its analysis of the survey results put 52 percent employees in the former category and 9 percent in the latter, with the rest in the middle.

Said MSPB, “There is a familiar stereotype of federal employees as sluggish and unmotivated—the very profile of a low CAPS employee. To the extent that this stereotype may be true—and every workforce contains some employees who feel that their actions will not make a difference—the CAPS framework provides a way to understand and perhaps improve the performance of these employees.”

“To the extent that this stereotype is false, this research provides recognition and support for federal workers who not only feel their actions will help produce results but are personally active in making a difference for the public they serve,” it said.

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