Since the survey was taken earlier this year, the Ukraine-related impeachment inquiry into Trump has exposed cases of mistreatment of career government employees, especially at the State Department. Several of those staffers testified in the inquiry before the House, angering Trump and drawing charges that the president was undermining the nation’s diplomats.
Among the diplomats entangled in the inquiry is Marie Yovanovitch, whom Pompeo pulled early out of her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May under pressure from Trump. Trump used Twitter to attack Yovanovitch while she was testifying before lawmakers.
As the House Democrat-led inquiry has unveiled messy details about Yovanovitch’s recall, many State Department staffers have been disappointed in Pompeo’s role, particularly his reluctance to defend Yovanovitch in public. One of his top aides resigned over it.
But the survey, which was taken between May and July, before the full facts of Yovanovitch’s ouster were known and before news of the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine were public, shows there were warning signs for Pompeo well before Democrats announced the impeachment probe in September. It also suggests that the early goodwill he had when taking over State from the deeply unpopular Tillerson has long faded.
The results were especially stark in a subcategory of the rankings that covered those who work in the Office of the Secretary of State. While in 2018, the “engagement score” for the secretary’s office was 50.5 out of 100, that fell nearly 9 points to 41.6 in 2019. Pompeo and his top aides saw drops in several areas measured, including “effective leadership,” “teamwork,” and “support for diversity.”
But morale at the State Department as a whole, at least at the time of the survey, appeared to have stabilized, the data shows . The department was still in the bottom half among the large agencies, ranking 13th out of 17. Still, that engagement score of 61.3 was higher than the 60.7 it scored in 2018. That slight tick upward ended a fall in scores since 2016.
Going back 16 years, the State Department’s top score was 70.8 in 2010. The report relies heavily on an annual survey, administered by the Office of Personnel Management, that tallies employee engagement and satisfaction of career employees in executive branch agencies and offices. It covers units with at least 100 employees.
The employee engagement score is a measure of “the satisfaction and commitment of the workforce and the willingness of employees to put forth discretionary effort to achieve results,” the rankings’ organizers say. The main survey underlying the rankings does not cover political appointees.
The State Department declined immediate comment.
The dips in State’s recent scores come as Trump has repeatedly tried to slash the department’s budget by up to a third. Congress has blocked the attempts. The dips also coincided in part with Tillerson’s tenure as secretary of State, during Trump’s first year in office. Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil CEO, was criticized for sidelining career diplomats and an ill-fated department reorganization effort. He also lacked a good relationship with Trump.
When Pompeo took over in April 2018, many State Department staffers breathed easier because he had a good relationship with Trump and because he took popular steps, such as ending a hiring freeze.
Pompeo may not be at State too much longer. He’s eyeing running for Senate from Kansas, and in a sign that he plans to jump in that race, he recently activated a personal Twitter account that describes him as a “husband, father, Kansan and proud American.”
The survey also found evidence of improved morale in several divisions of the State Department.
The Foreign Service Institute, for instance, saw a jump of 16.4 in its score, from 57.7 in 2018 to 74.1 in 2019. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs saw its score rise 7 points, from 58.9 to 65.9.
State’s Office of the Legal Adviser saw a rise of 8.6 points, from 54.9 to 63.5. But that office is among those that have come under considerable stress since the survey because of the impeachment inquiry.