All UN staff were asked about job satisfaction. The results are in.

By Amy Lieberman 20 March 2017

A view of the United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber. Photo by: Manuel Elias / U.N.

Curious about what the best — and worst — jobs are to land within the United Nations system? The happiest staffers can be found at the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Office of Administration of Justice, according to a new U.N. staff survey.

At the other end of the scale, the U.N. Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa ranked bottom.

Employees from across the organization’s departments were asked questions about job satisfaction, career development, leadership and ethics.

It is believed to be the first global staff survey of its kind conducted by the Coordinating Committee for International Staff Unions and Associations, according to the committee’s president, Ian Richards.

Run throughout February, it received 4,000 responses, representing around 10 percent of the U.N. Secretariat.

Some of the results have been surprising, Richards told Devex.

“It was quite interesting because some of the issues that showed up, we were not aware of," he said. “Some departments that have a good reputation generally turned out to not perform as well as we thought they would, and vice versa.”

OHCHR came out on top for the agency that U.N. staffers are “most proud to work for,” followed by the Department of Political Affairs. It also performed well on all other questions, including staff members feeling “happy and motivated coming to work” and believing that their department “appoints the right people for the right jobs.”

Yet comments published alongside the survey reveal frustrations among staffers, even at OHCHR.

“The Secretariat used to be the best employer worldwide. It is no longer, not because of the package (which is one of the best), but because of lack of career opportunities for young (and less young) talents,” one OHCHR staffer wrote.

“I do not believe similar surveys have [had] much impact on how things are run in New York or Geneva,” another added.

Staff members taking the survey were offered a series of 29 positive statements about working at the U.N. and were then asked to what extent they agreed with it. A weighted average was then produced.

OSAA and OHRLLS repeatedly appeared at the bottom of the scales. Compared to other departments, they performed poorly on statements such as “I receive prompt acknowledgment and recognition for doing good work” and even “My department is free from harassment or abuse of authority.”

One OSAA respondent wrote that “the department where I work does have highly competent staff” but complained of two managers who “do not identify with the constituency we are supposed to represent. They do not know the de facto realities of those we are supposed to advocate for and they don't care, actually.”

So far, the survey has prompted a range of reactions from U.N. agencies, departments and offices, according to Richards.

“We’ve seen a couple of departments — U.N. Environment, for example — talking about doing meetings with managers, doing town halls and having a constructive approach,” he said. “But there seem to be other cases where people did not understand it quite as well.”

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About the author

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Amy Liebermanamylieberman

Amy Lieberman is a reporter for Devex, based out of New York, where she covers global development around the city and out of the United Nations. She has previously worked as a freelancer, reporting on the environment, social justice issues, immigration and development. Her coverage has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Slate and The Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. She received her M.A. in politics and government from Columbia Journalism School in 2014.


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