As has been the pattern for many years, questions related to rewards for good performance and consequences for poor performance were among the lowest-rated in terms of positive responses in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey conducted last fall.

Again at the bottom was whether “in my work unit, steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve”—just 42 percent positive. Tied for third-lowest, at 51 percent positive, was whether “in my work unit, differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way” (second-lowest, at 43, was whether the respondent believed the results will be used to make the agency a better place to work).


In both cases, though, scores had increased significantly from 2019—up by eight and 12 points, respectively. Scores of both had been increasing dating to the Obama administration and through the Trump administration, although not by that extent.

The 2020 survey also repeated what had been a new question in 2019 asking further detail about poor performers. The percentage of those who said there are no poor performers in their work unit rose from 17 to 21, while the percentage who said that poor performers remain in the unit and continue to under-perform fell from 56 to 49 percent.

Nineteen percent, up two points, said that poor performers remain in the unit but improve, while the rest said they leave the unit by quitting, transferring or being removed.

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2021 Federal Employees Handbook