Job survey finds many in staff feel responsibility creep


A Staff Council survey aimed at finding whether “job creep” was occurring, found that 91 percent of the 1,112 staff that responded felt job creep was happening here at Pitt: That more duties had been placed upon them during their time here.

More than half said job creep (also known as “responsibility creep”) began before COVID-19 while one-third noticed it only following the pandemic-prompted Staff Early Retirement Program (SERP), which reduced the workforce by 453 in August 2020.

More than 60 percent of survey takers said they didn’t believe they could stop working even during official time off — or felt they had to make up the work once they returned to the office, Staff Council members reported. 

Half of respondents felt they were doing work outside their job classification, while 40 percent believed they were not “able to speak honestly” to supervisors about their “needs as an employee without fear of retribution or termination.” Half did not believe their supervisor “mindfully adjusts” their workload to take into account any shifts in job duties.

Staff Council members cautioned that those who took the survey this summer (about 16 percent of Pitt’s non-union staff) were a self-selected group who responded anonymously when the survey was distributed via Read Green and the Staff Council newsletter; it was not an appraisal by all staff, nor a random sample. As of Aug. 31, Pitt had 7,822 staff employees, including executives and union-eligible, of those 7,103 are not union-eligible. Find the full survey results here.

One section of the survey (which allowed multiple answers to be chosen) found a large number seeking new jobs:

  • 271 (or 29 percent of respondents) answered that they were looking at an employer outside of the University

  • 213 were looking in another Pitt department

  • 42 were considering a new post within their current department

  • 307 said that a job switch was “possibly” in their future.

Those who chose the above answers (along with 17 who said they had recently switched jobs within Pitt) gave as their top reasons “higher pay” (489); “responsibility/job creep” (381) and “to find a position with greater flexibility” (154). Fifty people answered “to utilize skills I have acquired during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Staff Council provided a space on the survey for staffers to further explain their responses in the above category. Although the organization has not released the specific responses, it summarized them by noting that “many respondents … mentioned that their quality of supervision, feelings of value, or work-life balance suffered during this time” of COVID-19.

“Those who were seeking a new job … mentioned a lack of job security, a lack of path towards advancement, a mismatch between their workload, job classification and/or pay, or seeking a job that was more aligned with their interests, passions, values and skills. … Many respondents in this group attributed their dissatisfaction with their position and/or workload and classification to changes that came about during the pandemic.”

Those who wished to switch jobs within Pitt — or were simply staying in their current jobs — chose as their top reason (among multiple choices):

  • Health insurance benefits (371)

  • Retirement savings match (358)

  • Years of service accrued (237)

  • Paid time off accrued” (200)

  • Tuition benefit for dependent/partner (179)

  • “I feel stuck” (130)

  • Flexible hours/condensed work week (130)

  • Tuition benefit for myself (125)

  • Professional development (123)

  • Opportunity for advancement (86)

Asked for the average frequency of job switching inside the University and average numbers of Pitt staff moving to outside employers, Human Resources was not able to provide such statistics by press time.

At the end of the survey, Staff Council said, 369 offered both “grateful messages to the University for maintaining jobs and working conditions” as well as “dissatisfaction in other areas, or an understanding that their working situation was abnormal.” The organization has said it may release these answers but has not yet done so.

The council’s own summary concluded: “By far the most common theme in written responses were complaints about pay. Staff members expressed the financial constraints they are under, despite their positions at Pitt. Many expressed the knowledge that they could make more money elsewhere. Others explain(ed) that they enjoy working at Pitt, but that low pay is still an issue,” along with problems with inaccurate job classifications, “frustration” with communications from the University and “perceived focus on students and faculty over staff members.”

Among those who answered, the largest group was comprised of administrators (406), followed by researchers (119) and systems programmers (69).

The respondents were mostly white (741), with 48 African Americans and 20 Asians answering, alongside 120 people who preferred not to describe themselves within such groups. Additionally, 20 among the total were Latinx. Female respondents (581) also far outnumbered males (183); 19 people described themselves as non-binary, while 15 preferred not to label themselves.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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