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Charles County government employees complained about pay, but morale stayed mainly even in 2012 despite a three-year freeze in pay and benefits.

The second annual employee satisfaction survey, which did not include sheriff’s deputies or public school personnel, was conducted in April to discover how workers feel about their jobs and how to improve satisfaction and productivity.

The reaction to recent raises, not reflected in the survey results, could raise job satisfaction further, county staffers told the board of commissioners Oct. 2.

Comments focused on pay and benefits, said Nikki Bradburn, county recruitment administrator, “center[ing] around requests for the commissioners to consider reinstatements of merit increases and COLAs, cost-of-living adjustments. And as you know, the commissioners approved reinstatement of merit increases in the fiscal 2013 budget.”

The survey was conducted before the board voted on the budget in June.

Job satisfaction and morale seemed to creep upward this year, according to survey results.

In 2012, 27 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “Morale in our division is high,” up 5 percentage points from last year. The survey was not conducted scientifically, so error margins are not available.

Compensation satisfaction also lifted slightly. This year, 26 percent were satisfied with their pay, up 1 point from last year, and 8 percent were satisfied with their raises, also up 1 point. Satisfaction with other benefits rose from 58 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2012.

Satisfaction with management also rose, with 79 percent agreeing they can discuss “issues of concern” with superiors, 6 points higher than last year. Sixty-nine percent felt bosses were “fair and even-handed,” 3 points higher than last year.

Many responses in the survey’s comment section focused on pay, with several referring to raises then being discussed for Charles County sheriff’s officers and public school teachers.

One employee called for “better compensation. I think it is awful that the commissioners will not take care of their own employees. They are more concerned about getting re-elected and taking care of the Sheriff's Office and the Board of Education, rather than taking care of the people that make them successful.”

Despite generally high satisfaction with management, some workers expressed frustration with their bosses.

“My supervisor does not communicate his expectations. He is vague, then he gets mad at us when we ask questions for clarification. He talks about staff members to others in the office behind their backs. He’s rude and disrespectful. He makes excuses for his behavior & blames others,” one wrote. But at least one worker thought everyone was doing the best he could.

“I’m not sure who will read this, but moral[e] seems to be as high as it was last year. I’m sure most employees will say that they deserve a raise, but times are bad. The economy is bad. We, as employees and The County, must learn to ride out the rough times and keep our head up. Thank you Charles County Government,” the person wrote.

At the recommendation of Bradburn and Human Resources Director Stephen Brayman, the commissioners unanimously scaled back the employee of the month recognition, replacing it with a similar recognition of high performance to be held four times a year.

Some workers enjoyed the public recognition of a monthly ceremony with the commissioners, but others thought too many were being recognized or objected to being made the center of attention.

“I believe employees are being overly recognized due to a monthly requirement to recognize exemplary work. It’s sometimes embarrassing to get an award for properly making a debit or credit while EMTs and dispatchers are being awarded for saving lives,” a worker wrote.

Survey participation dropped almost by half from last year; 290 workers completed the survey this year, compared to 481 in 2011. Survey comments showed respondents’ skepticism that their answers were anonymous, something Brayman said could have convinced others to avoid it altogether.

emitrano@somdnews.com