The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and White Privilege

Earlier this month, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) told federal agencies that the 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) will be hitting the email boxes of federal government employees. The FEVS, to long-term feds, is simply an avenue for the federal sector to get feedback on how things are going. Since we cannot have such conversations with our supervisors, the FEVS is a sneaky way for OPM to get anonymous criticism on the job commitment, satisfaction and engagement levels of federal workers.

The subliminal message of the FEVS bureaucracy is one of white privilege, built on the notion that “everything is white and all right.” Lead singer in this white privilege band is no other than the OPM with a white representation rate of 66%. No surprises here. The OPM reflects the same white privilege as the people they lead in the entire federal sector who look very similar to OPM with a white composition of 65%.

Since the FEVS, OPM and the federal government are so embedded in white might, it is easy to predict who the winners will we be in the annual race for the prize of “the best places to work in the federal government.” You guessed it — predominately white federal agencies. Look at the winners in 2015. The Federal Trade Commission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Management Budget, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who proudly carry on the legacy of white privilege with an average white composition rate of 71%.

To demonstrate how white privilege is passed on to the next generation, of the ten most Millennial-friendly agencies in the federal government in 2015, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, Federal Trade Commission, Department of Commerce, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Office of Personnel Management, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of State, Department of Treasury and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation had an average white representation rate of 64%.

What causes white privilege in the federal government and in agencies like the OPM?

• White people have been conditioned to see their world as the experience of everyone else. This forces white people to view other human beings as being the same as opposed to being different. They are unable to forge a link between engagement and diversity and inclusion.
• Since whites are at the top of “the best places to work in the federal government ladder,” they are not in a position to see the racial privilege they enjoy. When others point this privilege out to them, they lash out against these naysayers who seek to disrupt their white cocoon of racial comfort.
• Whites have such a positive self-image of their white privilege and the correspondingly high levels of engagement that follows; they delude themselves into thinking that their engagement is due their hard work and not their white privilege.
• Since whites move and operate within this ascendant setting of high engagement, they are continually reminded of their “king of the hill” status. They do not see their role as sharing their engagement riches with others who do not look like them, act like them or talk like them.

Engagement is needed in the federal government. Unfortunately, only white folks can apply.

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