Turnover of Personnel in the Federal Government

  • Jennifer Symonds Morrison
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_3454-1



A voluntary or involuntary movement across the membership boundary of organization through quits, transfers, layoffs, promotion, reduction in force, deaths, or retirement.


Employing 2.2 million workers over 100 agencies, the US federal government is one of the largest employers in the country. Employee turnover has been an issue since the early days of the government (White 1948). While a loss of employees can have positive effect on an organization, negative consequences, including loss of human and knowledge capital, morale, and productivity, and increased costs for replacements, can be problematic for governance (Bertelli and Lewis 2012; Kim and Fernandez 2017). Research conducted by the US Senate, the National Commission on Public Service, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the Office of Personnel Management found that the rate of turnover in the federal government was higher than in other industries. This article...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Abelson MA, Baysinger BD (1984) Optimal and dysfunctional turnover: toward an organizational level model. Acad Manag Rev 9(2):331–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen DG (2008) Retaining talent: a guide to analyzing and managing employee turnover. Retrieved from SHRM Foundation Effective Practice Guidelines series, pp 1–43Google Scholar
  3. Becker GS, Landes E, Michael RT (1977) An economic analysis of marital instability. J Polit Econ 85:1141–1187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bertelli AM, Lewis DE (2012) Policy influence, agency-specific expertise, and exit in the federal service. J Public Adm Res Theory 23(2):223–245.  https://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/mus044CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Biggs AG (2010) Are federal workers underpaid. Retrieved from American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Reseach, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Bluedorn AC (1978) A taxonomy of turnover. Acad Manag Rev 3(3):647–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borjas GJ (1982) Labor turnover in the U.S. federal bureaucracy. J Public Econ 19(2):187–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Borjas GJ, Rosen S (1980) Income prospects and job mobility of younger men. Res Labor Econ 3:159–181Google Scholar
  9. Bright L (2009) Why do public employees desire intrinsic nonmonetary opportunities? Publ Pers Manag 38(3):15–37Google Scholar
  10. Bright L (2011) Does public service motivation affect the occupation choices of public employees? Publ Pers Manag 40(1):11–24Google Scholar
  11. Cascio WF (1991) Costing human resources: the financial impact of behavior in organizations, vol 21. South-Western Educational Publishing, CincinnatiGoogle Scholar
  12. Cho YJ, Lewis GB (2011) Turnover intention and turnover behavior: implications for retaining federal employees. Rev Publ Pers Admin 32(1):4–23.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0734371X11408701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cho S, Johanson MM, Guchait P (2009) Employees intent to leave: a comparison of determinants of intent to leave versus intent to stay. Int J Hosp Manag 28(3):374–381.  https://doi.org/10.31016/j.ijhm.2008.10.007CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dalton DR, Todor WD (1979) Turnover turned over: an expanded and positive perspective. Acad Manag Rev 4(2):225–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Derrick KS, Walker KH (2006) Talkin’ ‘bout my generation. Publ Manag 35(2):63–66Google Scholar
  16. Falk JR (2012) Comparing benefits and total compensation in the federal government and the private sector. BE J Econ Policy Anal 12:1–37Google Scholar
  17. Ippolito RA (1987) Why federal workers don’t quit. J Hum Resour:281–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Issacs KP (2015) Federal employees’ retirement system: budget and trust fund issues. Retrieved from Congressional Research Service, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  19. Kim SY, Fernandez S (2017) Employee empowerment and turnover intention in the U.S. federal bureaucracy. Am Rev Publ Adm 47(1):4–22.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0275074015583712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kirschenbaum A, Weisberg J (2002) Employee turnover intentions and job destination choices. J Organ Behav 23(1):109–125.  https://doi.org/10.1002/job.124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kristof AL (1996) Person-organization fit: an integrative review of its conceptualizations, measurement, and implications. Pers Psychol 49(1):1–49.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1996.tb01790.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lewis GB, Cho YJ (2011) The aging of the state government workforce: trends and implications. Am Rev Publ Admin 41(1):48–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lewis GB, Frank SA (2002) Who wants to work for the government? Public Adm Rev 62(4):395–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Management, U. S. O. o. P (2017c) FedScope: federal human resources data: separations. Retrieved from https://www.fedscope.opm.gov/
  25. Mobley WH (1982) Employee turnover: causes, consequences, and control. Addison-Wesley, ReadingGoogle Scholar
  26. Mobley WH, Horner SO, Hollingsworth AT (1978) An evaluation of precursors of hospital employee turnover. J Appl Psychol 63(4):408–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mobley WH, Griffeth R, Hand HH, Meglino BM (1979) Review and conceptual analysis of the employee turnover process. Psychol Bull 86(3):493–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mowday RT, Porter LW, Steers RM (1982) Employee-organization linkages: the psychology of commitment, absenteeism, and turnover. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Naff KC, Crum J (1999) Working for America: does public service motivation make a difference? Rev Publ Pers Admin 19(1):5–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Office, U. S. G. A (2009) Older workers: enhances communication among federal agencies could improve strategies for hiring and retaining experienced workers (GAO-09-206). Retrieved from Government Accounting Office, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  31. Perry JL (1996) Measuring public service motivation: an assessment of construct reliability and validity. J Public Adm Res Theory 6(1):5–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Perry JL, Wise LR (1990) The motivational bases of public service. Public Adm Rev 50(3):367–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pitts D, Marvel J, Fernandez S (2011) So hard to say goodbye? Turnover intention among U.S. federal employees. Public Adm Rev 71(5):751–760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Price JL (1997) Handbook of organizational measurement. Int J Manpow 18(4/5/6):305–558.  https://doi.org/10.1108/014377297101822CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Service, P. f. P, Hamilton BA (2010) Beneath the surface: understanding attrition at your agency and why it matters. Retrieved from Partnership for Public Service, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  36. Tett RP, Meyer JP (1993) Job satisfaction, organizational commitment, turnover intention, and turnover: path analyses based on meta-analytic findings. Pers Psychol 46:259–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ting Y (1997) Determinants of job satisfaction of federal government employees. Publ Pers Manag 26(3)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tobias RM (2011) An aging workforce: a time of opportunity or a time of calamity? Publ Manag 30(2):27–30Google Scholar
  39. White LD (1948) The federalists: a study in administrative history. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science and SociologyMurray State UniversityMurrayUSA