No job satisfaction for 'robotic' workers

Mar 03 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Job satisfaction in Britain is on the decline – with excessive work loads, 'robotic' jobs, a lack of scope for personal initiative being blamed for the nation's workplace discontent.

A new study led by Professor Francis Green of the University of Kent has found that there was a small downward trend in average job satisfaction in Britain between 1972 and 1983.

Despite a lack of data in the 1980s, three separate sources also show significant declines during the 1990s.

The investigation also looked at other European countries and the United States, finding a falling sense of well-being among both British and German workers - although it admits defeat when it comes to explaining the decline in Germany.

In the United States, there was a small downward trend in job satisfaction from 1972 to 2002. But the figures suggests that even over 100 years, it would only fall by 0.1 points - not much on a possible range of 1 to 4.

According to Professor Green, feelings of insecurity, too high expectations and people being 'over-educated' and unable to find work to match their qualifications, were not major factors in UK workers' sense of malaise.

His team also found no evidence to back suggestions that the dull mood of workers may be due to successive generations having ever higher expectations from their jobs and being disappointed by the realities of employment.

"The most satisfied employee is one who is in a secure job, with a high level of individual discretion and participation in decision-making, but not requiring highly intensive work effort," he said.

"They will be well-matched to their job in terms of both qualifications and hours of work, be well-paid but have relatively low pay expectations."

"In Britain, all of the fall in overall job satisfaction between 1992 and 2001 could be accounted for by people having less personal responsibility and use of initiative in their work, combined with an increase in the effort required.

"It was implausible to blame job insecurity, because over this period unemployment had fallen and other evidence suggested a falling sense of insecurity during the latter part of the 1990s," he added.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, also suggested that while there had been a small increase in people unable to find work to match their qualifications, this was too small to account for the effect on job satisfaction.

It also comes on the same day that research for the Recruitment Confidence Index found that half Britain's managers and professionals want to change jobs over the next two years, suggesting that employers face the prospect of significant retention headaches.