TX PEER
Navigation Bar

TNRCC Employees Survey Shows an Agency in Trouble

In 1979, under former Governor Bill Clements, the state of Texas began conducting job satisfaction surveys within its agencies. Stating a desire to learn more about state employee attitudes, Gov. Clements believed that these surveys could help to provide "empowerment and accountability" for public employees. Newly released results of the 1999-2000 Survey of Organizational Excellence for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission shows an agency beset with low morale. The Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility a group of present and former public employees concerned with environmental protection, believes the TNRCC survey shows an agency in trouble.

The Survey of Organizational Excellence

The Survey of Organizational Excellence (SOE), conducted by The University of Texas School of Social Work, is administered to employees once every two years. It contains 65 primary questions and 16 so-called "over-time" questions that examine employees' perceptions of worsening or improving workplace conditions. For each question there are 6 responses possible: (1) Strongly agree, (2) Agree, (3) Neutral, (4) Disagree, (5) Strongly disagree, and Did not respond (or Not applicable). Responses to certain questions are also grouped into 20 subcategories such as "Job Satisfaction," "Fairness," and "Supervisor Effectiveness." These subcategories are then grouped into "Workplace Dimensions" called "Work Group," "Work Setting," "Organizational Features," "Communication," and " Personal Demands." This grouping process simplifies the process of visualizing trends.

Survey Results Show (what)

The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) has participated in three SOE survey periods in 1996-97, 1998-99, and most recently during 1999-2000. The newly released 1999-2000 survey results are based on responses of 1,298 or 46% of TNRCC employees receiving surveys.

Of the subcategories showing general approval by employees, only one, "Physical Environment," showed an increase over the past three survey periods, and only one, "Time and Stress," exceeded the pooled state score from all other participating agencies (Table 1). This last category, however, appears to be declining since previous surveys. Also declining are attitudes about Benefits and Organizational Quality.

Of the categories showing general disapproval by employees, attitudes about Fair Pay, Goal-Oriented Organization, and Burnout have declined from the 1996-97 and 1998-99 levels (Table 2). Other categories well below pooled state scores were attitudes about "Fairness," "Supervisor Effectiveness," "Team Effectiveness," "Internal Communication," and "Empowerment."

While summarizing data can sometimes obscure underlying problems and distract from more meaningful, more easily interpreted data such as the number of employees who agree or disagree with these questions, 16 questions generated clear negative responses from the 1,298 employees responding the survey:

  • 60% disagree that they were adequately compensated for doing excellent work - only 22% agree;
  • 51% disagree that "every employee is valued" - only 28% agree;
  • 51% disagree that "information and knowledge are shared openly in this organization" - only 29% agree;
  • 68% disagree that they did not have to go through channels to get their work done - only 13% agree;
  • 56% disagree that they "had an opportunity to participate in the process of strategic planning and goal setting" - only 18% agree;
  • 57% disagree there was "basic trust among employees and management" - only 24% agree;
  • 55% agree that "people who challenge the status quo are valued"- only 14% agree;
  • 58% disagree that "Raises and promotions are designed to ensure that workers are rewarded solely for their performance." - only 19% agree;
  • 81% disagreed that "Salaries are competitive with similar jobs in the community." - only 8% agree;
  • 55% disagreed that levels of stress and burnout were not increasing in the organization - only 8% agree.

Considering the intensity of these responses, it is not surprising that 55% of employees felt that stress and burnout were increasing within TNRCC. These responses may be even more favorable than is actually the case since responses from subordinates and supervisory personnel were pooled to create these percentages. It is reasonable to expect supervisory and subordinates to have starkly differing perspectives on survey statements, especially when asked to consider statements like "There is a basic trust among employees and management."

The strong negative responses indicate an agency in trouble. Survey results show widespread attitudes that the organization is dominated by top-down management; prone to secretively and to selectively distribute essential information; is unable to pay salaries commensurate with private sector; and is plagued by unfair promotions and fear of reprisals for challenging agency practices.

TNRCC Needs Changes

Texas PEER agrees that these surveys can provide an important tool for improving agency performance by improving the workplace environment and sense of empowerment of agency employees. This will only occur, however, if the Survey of Organizational Excellence results can be used to fix the underlying problems disclosed by prevalent employee dissatisfaction. If efforts to improve state government and empower government employees are sincere, then work should focus on the questions that generate strong negative responses from a majority of employees. The TNRCC and its employees deserve immediate attention because of their critical role in protecting the health and safety of the public through enforcement of air and water pollution laws.

Table 1. Constructs with raw scores of 300 or more (showing general approval by employees):

CONSTRUCT

TNRCC 1999

POOLED STATE SCORES

Increase or Decrease greater than 5 points*

Job Satisfaction

317

338

No change

Work Group Diversity

306

322

No change

Physical Environment

328

358

Increase

Employee Development

331

331

No change

Benefits

340

366

Declining (-11)

Strategic Orientation

366

392

No change

Organization Quality

323

360

Declining (-13)

External Communication

341

362

No change

Time and Stress

344

336

Declining (-8)

*Based on comparison between 1996 and 1999 scores. This comparison is not based on statistically significant differences, so have to be a little cautious about how we use these.

Notice that in all cases except "Employee Development" TNRCC scores are less than state scores.

Table 2. Constructs with raw scores of 300 or less (showing general disapproval by employees):

CONSTRUCT

TNRCC 1999

Increase or Decrease greater than or equal to 5 points*

POOLED STATE SCORES

Fairness

275

Declining

289

Supervisor Effectiveness

261

Increasing

293

Team Effectiveness

278

No change

319

Fair Pay

252

Declining (-27)

302

Change Oriented Organisation

286

Declining

323

Holographic Organisation

283

No change

317

Goal Oriented Organisation

288

Declining (-6)

338

Internal Communication

283

Increasing

316

Availability

279

No change

323

Burnout

280

Declining (-7)

325

Empowerment

262

No change

304

*Based on comparison between 1996 and 1999 scores. This comparison is not based on statistically significant differences, so have to be a little cautious about how we use these.

Table 3. Responses to specific questions where apporoximately 50% or more of employees surveyed disagreed with the question:

QUESTION NUMBER AND % AGREEING NUMBER AND % NEUTRAL NUMBER AND % DISAGREEING

"Average work is rewarded the same as excellent work".(a)

284 (22.24%)

188 (14.72%)

872 (60.45%)

"Every employee is valued"

359 (28.0%)

254 (19.81%)

652 (50.86%)

"The right information gets to the right people at the right time."

276 (21.46%)

298 (23.17%)

666 (51.79%)

"Information and knowledge are shared openly in this organization"

357 (29.1%)

237 (18.49%)

653 (50.94%)

"Employees feel that they must always go through channels to get their work done."(a)

169 (13.19%)

225 (17.55%)

866 (67.55%)

"Employees have an opportunity to participate in the process of strategic planning and goal setting."

230 (17.94%)

272 (21.22%)

719 (56.08%)

"Decision making and control are given to the employees doing the actual work"

339 (26.48%)

200 (15.63%)

727 (56.79%)

"There is a basic trust among employees and management."

319 (24.9%)

217 (16.94%)

503 (57.3%)

"Each employee is given the opportunity to be a leader".

316 (24.75%)

302 (23.65%)

634 (49.64%)

"Management knows whether an individual employee’s life goals are compatible with organizational goals."

164 (12.9%)

304 (23.90%)

697 (54.79%)

"People who challenge the status quo are valued."

178 (13.98%)

321 (25.22%)

700 (54.99%)

"Promotion recommendations are made by a team of evaluators."

162 (12.81%)

208 (16.46%)

619 (48.97%)

"Raises and promotions are designed to ensure that workers are rewarded solely for their performance."

242 (19.01%)

198 (15.55%)

732 (57.5%)

"Salaries are competitive with similar jobs in the community."

107 (8.38%)

89 (6.97%)

1,037 (81.21%)

"Assess the level of stress and burnout that is experienced in this organization."

101 (8.05%)

288 (22.93%)

686 (54.62%)(b)

"Formal recognition programs at this agency give me an incentive to work harder."

150 (12.58%)

239 (20.05%)

759 (63.68%)

(a)This is a negative question so scores reversed; i.e. the interpretation is that the majority of the employees feel that average work is rewarded the same as excellent work, or the majority feel that they must go through channels to get work done.

(b)This means that the majority of employees feel that levels of stress and burnout are increasing in this organization.


Home | About | National | Forums
| PEER PRESSure | Feedback | Search |
 

TX PEER · 4006 Speedway; Austin TX · 78751
Tel:(512) 454-8806 · txpeer@PEER.org 
TX PEER
Go to TxPEER's homepage Click to jump to the top of the page