U.S. Spies Have Serious Job Gripes, Survey Finds

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The shadow world of intelligence portrayed in the movies bears little resemblance to reality. Need proof? Just reference the third annual Intelligence Community Employee Climate Survey (.pdf) released Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). If the halls of the CIA really are full of Jack Ryans, you’d think the survey results would be a little more positive. Instead, they show that the nation’s spooks aren’t that different from you and me—they suffer the same office politics and bureaucratic inflexibility that have bedeviled workers since time began.

The ODNI puts a positive spin on the survey results, highlighting that some 88 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “the work I do is important,” and 81 percent acknowledged “I like the kind of work I do.” But lest we are overly encouraged by such statements (after all, many people like the kind of work they do even if they hate their jobs), a deeper look at the survey results shows serious issues with how intelligence employees perceive things like performance incentives, job training, recruitment, and the competence of their colleagues.

Some choice data points:

  • Percentage who agree that steps are taken to deal with poor job performers who cannot or will not improve: 28
  • Percentage who say pay raises reflect job performance: 28
  • Percentage who say promotions are based on merit: 41
  • Percentage satisfied with ability to advance: 46
  • Percentage who say that leaders generate motivation and commitment in workers: 45
  • Percentage satisfied with policies and practices of senior leaders: 47
  • Photo used under a Creative Commons license from ford.

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