It’s rare to find a TSA agent who’s genuinely pleasant. Oh sure, you’ll encounter a bunch who are professional and who might even tell you to have a nice day. But they rarely give eye contact, short of when they’re comparing your face to the picture on your ID. And even fewer of them ever smile. OK, except maybe this guy (really, watch it – he’s awesome!)
You’ll also find a fair share of Transportation Safety Officers who are downright nasty. They yell at passengers. They’re impatient. They don’t explain things adequately. They have little compassion for people who don’t understand because of a language or comprehension barrier. There’s questioning if their sense of authority goes to their heads. And they’re as inconsistent as can be.
But I found something that totally explains why the TSA workers in that last paragraph act as they do. It makes perfect sense…
An audit was done of the Homeland Security Department and the report was released in March 2019. The 36-page (PDF) report highlights that (and I quote):
“TSA Needs To Improve Efforts to Retain, Hire, and Train Its Transportation Security Offers”
Here were some of the findings:
- New hires are frequently only part-time employees (of the 9,600 officers TSA hired in fiscal 2017, more than two-thirds were employed part-time. TSA hires more part-timers on purpose, to help with schedule issues, but part-timers also tend to quit their jobs at TSA at a rate two to three times higher than full-time workers).
- The TSA doesn’t screen candidates well, and has no procedures to rank candidates or to properly document notes on prospective employees.
- The Auditors observed that the TSA has no standardized approach to train new hires, and doesn’t explain its expectations of employees when they start working (specifically mentioned was, “According to TSA officials at 2 of the 12 airports visited, lack of clearly understanding job expectations, such as pat-down procedures and shift schedules, has led to early attrition of new-hires.“)
- Starting salary for a (full-time) TSA worker is about $39,000. TSA employees said that in some markets, they could earn more money than that at a retail store or sandwich shop.
- The TSA has a history of not offering career growth opportunities and salary increases (this apparently has improved slightly since a new program, TSA Career Progression, was put into place in August 2018).
- Apparently, the TSA’s new hires’ turnover rate is about 25%; 1 in 4 quit their position within 6 months of their hire date.
- TSA doesn’t utilize the information gained from employee exit surveys (“We reviewed a summary of TSA’s exit survey results from 10,128 respondents from FYs 2012–17. The exit surveys identified common themes, most of which were corroborated by TSA airport officials during our interviews. These included dissatisfaction with career advancement opportunities and issues with management’s competence and communication.” The table on page 8 of the audit explains the most common responses from both part-time and full-time former employees)
- The TSA also doesn’t have a process to quickly and efficiently fill vacant positions, relying instead on mandatory overtime. Mandatory OT = lower job satisfaction = higher turnover.
So the TSA workers you meet may be part-time, inappropriate for their job, inadequately prepared for their job, underpaid, forced with mandatory overtime, etc., etc., etc.
On top of that, it took forever for the TSA to adequately protect their workers from COVID-19 while on the job, to the point where someone had to be a whistleblower to get anything done. And even after that, they didn’t start installing acrylic shields at airports until early 2021.
And then we wonder why TSA workers are so crabby?
There may be SOME light at the end of the tunnel. The Biden Administration has ordered the TSA to expand union rights so TSOs could have collective bargaining rights. They’ve also been told to explore pay reform for its screeners. The two combined could help wipe the sourpusses off some TSOs’ faces. But there are still several other issues that will hopefully be addressed so more TSA officers can be at least, you know, pleasant.
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