Job satisfaction keeps falling

Feb 26 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Americans are growing increasingly unhappy with their jobs and the problem is getting worse, with the newest entrants to the workforce the most disillusioned and disengaged they have ever been.

Research by the Conference Board has found that fewer than half of all Americans are satisfied with their jobs, a steady decrease on the six out of 10 who said they were satisfied twenty years ago.

To make matters worse, all the signs point to the problem getting worse rather than better, with the newest entrants to the workforce emerging as the most disillusioned.

The research found that fewer than four out of 10 workers under the age of 25 are satisfied with their jobs, the lowest level of satisfaction overall and the lowest level ever recorded in the two decades the survey has been carried out.

And this decline in satisfaction is not just focussed at the younger end of the workforce. Those aged 45-54 expressed the second lowest level of satisfaction, with less than 45 per cent content with their current job.

At the other end of the scale, nearly half of those aged 55-64 and 65 and over said they were satisfied with their employment situation.

What's more, while the lowest level of job satisfaction were among workers earning $15,000 or less per year, the figure barely exceeds half (52 per cent) even for those whose earnings exceed $50,000 per year.

One clue as to the reasons for this widespread discontent is the fact that job satisfaction tends to rise as hours worked per week increases, but begin to recede at a life-sapping 60 or more hours.

Location plays a part, too, with satisfaction levels ranging from a miserable 41 percent in the Middle Atlantic states (NY, NJ and PA) to a height of 56 percent in the Mountain states (MT, ID, WY, NV, UT, CO, AZ, NM).

Bonus plans and promotion policies were also identified as big sources of unhappiness, with less than a quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed saying they were satisfied with their company's policies.

Performance review processes, workload, work/life balance, communication channels and potential for future growth came in for similarly heavy criticism, with only around a third of respondents satisfied with these aspects of their working lives.

"Although a certain amount of dissatisfaction with one's job is to be expected, the breadth of dissatisfaction is somewhat unsettling, since it carries over from what attracts employees to a job to what keeps them motivated and productive on the job," said Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

"Perhaps, this is why two out of every ten employees does not see himself in his current job a year from now."


Older Comments

Managements have been saying for years that people are their most valuable resource.

But they continue to use the top-down command and control model which includes orders, goals, targets, and a belief that employees should be seen and not heard. All of this demeans, disrespects and demotivates employees.

In such an environment, employees become stressed and resort to an apathetic approach to their work in order to protect themselves and their families from damage. Is there any wonder why they are unhappy with their employer?

Best regards, Ben Simonton Author 'Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed'

Ben Simonton

No wonder that employees are so dissatisfied with their jobs. What is more surprising is that managements don't know how to respond effectively.

Stress and frustration naturally and predictably result from a top-down, command and control driven workplace. Orders, goals, targets and the other forms of top-down control demean, disrespect and demotivate employees.

In this mode, bosses think that employees should listen to bosses rather than vice versa. Nothing like having to follow the orders of people who are so removed from the workplace that they don't really understand what it takes to get the work done.

Thus, employees become greatly frustrated and stressed. Eventually, they become apathetic just to protect themselves and their families. In this state, they don't apply their brains to the work and thus fail to unleash their natural creativity, innovation, productivity, motivation and commitment.

As such, employees are less than 20% as productive as they would be if they were highly motivated and committed. This is a huge loss to the business which can only be corrected by throwing out the command and control model and adopting one in which bosses continually ask employees what they need to do a better job and then give it to them.

Why do bosses seem willing to continue using a top-down model when it costs them a ton? May be they just don't know any better. I admit that the vast majority of consultants and books lead managers in the wrong direction.

Best regards, Ben Author 'Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed'

Ben Simonton

Although many companies acknowledge the trend in unsatisfied workers, very few offer more than lip service to try and counter the declining rate of satisfaction.

Rather than just talk about it, companies should make it the responsibility of departmental heads and team leaders to engage the employees and find out what the major sources of unrest are - and then initiate a program to address these issues.

Generally employee dissatisfaction is driven by much, much more than just salary and workload.

Many activities and occurrences can help increase satisfaction at work...

- If an employee feels valued he/she is more productive, happier, less stressed and more enthusiastic about work and life in general.

- Ownership is about taking personal responsibility and accountability for producing results and having needs come to fruition rather than expecting mangers to assign responsibility and know those needs and how to meet them.

- Feedback is probably the most powerful, yet under-used and ill-used management tool. In a culture where openness is valued, feedback should be a regular occurrence and staff will feel more motivated, involved and willing to contribute. Without feedback people are 'blind' and will work on their own assumptions of how they are performing to meet business needs.

- Motivation is the inner desire to take action. Motivating others is getting them to do what you need them to do because they want to do it! Generally motivation stems from some form of self-interest. There usually needs to be some form of reward or benefit for the individual or team, otherwise they will not be motivated to act. It can come in many forms such as a simple thank you, increased responsibility or a financial incentive.

- Openness is the ability to talk freely about needs, feelings and concerns. It is also being receptive to new ideas, enquiry and feedback. Sharing information, feelings and concerns is a primary key in any venture, activity or project involving more than one person. Openness also ensures that people are kept informed of issues as they arise and that everyone receives current knowledge about an ever-changing situation.

These are just a few ways of working towards becoming a better place to work and retaining, (engaged and passionate), employees. This should be an ongoing exercise and not something that happens every few years when suddenly companies realize they are losing their best talent.

It simply makes sense to reap the benefits of increased job satisfaction and improved performance.

Shea Heaver | (866) 493-WORK