Poor National Park Service Morale Shows Scant Improvement

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Chandra Rosenthal  (303) 898-0798

Poor National Park Service Morale Shows Scant Improvement

Staff Skeptical of Top Leadership’s Integrity, Credibility, and Competence


Washington, DC —The morale among employees within the National Park Service (NPS) ranks well below that of other Interior Department workers and federal employees generally, according to the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Park Service staff give the lowest marks to their own senior agency leadership, with significant percentages expressing concern about excessive workload, threats to their physical safety, and profound professional disempowerment.  

The government-wide Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) is administered annually by the Office of Personnel Management. The uniform 91-question survey enables comparison between federal agencies as well as the ability to track morale trends over time.  

Overall, little more than half (56%) of NPS respondents expressed satisfaction with the agency, while more than a third (36%) did not recommend the Park Service “as a good place to work.”  The level of employee approval declined sharply when asked about top agency leadership: 

  • Nearly half (45%) doubt that “senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity” and only slightly more than half (53%) express “a high of respect” for senior leaders. Both these ratings were below those given by other Interior or federal workers;  
  • Less than half (44%) think their “management makes effective changes to address challenges facing the organization” and most (55%) do not believe that NPS’ “approval process…allows timely delivery” of their work; and 
  • Even fewer (40%) agree that leadership “involves employees in decisions that affect their work” while barely half (52%) agree that “information is openly shared” inside NPS. 

“Although there has been a slight improvement in results from last year’s dismal poll, these latest survey results are far from a vote of confidence in Park Service leadership,” commented PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, referencing cases this year where senior managers found guilty of serious misconduct were promoted. “It is no wonder that most employees answering one survey question perceive their agency as a place where ‘favoritism’ is tolerated.”   

Notably, nearly one-third (32%) declined to agree with the statement that they “can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal.” While a larger percentage (40%) were not confident they felt “prepared…for potential physical security threats.” 

Perhaps the most negative result was the low percentage (41%) of respondents who “believe the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work.” 

“Unfortunately, the current Park Service leadership does not see itself as part of the problem and therefore will not be part of the solution,” added Whitehouse pointing to the extensive employee outreach NPS conducted following well-publicized sexual harassment scandals only to let the supposed lessons learned, embodied in a report called NPS Voices 2018, languish with no follow-through.  “Park Service employees have every reason to feel cynical.” 

More than half of full-time NPS employees (approximately 9,000 of 15,000) filled out the 2023 FECS survey. More than half of the NPS respondents had been with the agency for more than a decade and two-thirds of respondents were more than 40 years old.  


Look at highlights from the NPS 2023 FEVS results 

See full survey results 

Read the NPS all-employee memo on the survey 

View recent promotion of senior managers guilty of misconduct 

Revisit NPS burying past employee outreach lessons 

Compare last year’s dismal FEVS results 

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