It’s official. Workers feel less satisfied than ever. In the U.S., according to an annual survey by the Conference Board, fewer feel safe in their jobs, fewer like their bosses, and fewer like the people they work with. The reasons are many, according to the report. The economy’s in the tank, real wages have dropped, workloads have increased, and many people it seems don’t find their jobs interesting any more.
Our guess is that many of you, whether inside or outside the U.S., are feeling similar frustrations. The numbers from this year’s annual job satisfaction and salary survey bear this out. More of you said you’re your job satisfaction was “poor” or “very poor” than in previous years. Roughly 41% of you said your job satisfaction was “high” or “very high,” down from approximately 45% last year and from previous years. More than ever before, Mick Jagger’s old “can’t get no satisfaction” refrain rings true.
There are other unsettling stats:
- Two-thirds of you were concerned about job security.
- Nearly 58% of you said your company was giving fewer promotions and raises, and 46% witnessed layoffs where you work; 52% experienced hiring freezes; and 34% saw salary freezes.
- 57% of you did not take all the vacation time you were allocated.
All of these figures above are greater than last year and the highest in the six years that we’ve done our reader survey. (For all data, see charts here.) To make matters worse, you seem to be undergoing more organizational shakeups than ever before, and having more internal conflicts with coworkers.
All of which leads to the conclusion that, if you haven’t been fired, you’re likely fried, frustrated, or a bit frazzled. “I’m simply tired of being disregarded,” says one process chemist, who asked not to be identified by name. He’s also had to put in more hours, and take less vacation time. “I believe in what the company is doing, but when you’re continually asked to do so much, it’s tough,” he says.
Is there a silver lining here somewhere? Maybe it is this: What many of you are telling us in this year’s survey is that you have changed the way you think about work and life. A good salary is important, but not the be all and end all. Challenging work has moved higher on your list, while salary and benefits have moved down. Many of you, it appears, are reconnecting with what is truly important.
And you’re connecting with each other. This year has been a breakout year for professional networking, and many of you are finding support in peers near and far, some of whom you’d lost touch with and some whom you’ve never met.
Turning the Corner?
Another potential source of optimism: If our 2010 survey can be viewed as a bellwether of the economy—albeit a modest one—things are trending positively. Last year, 40% of you said that external financial pressure on your company was the greatest threat to your job security. This year, just 30% of you felt this way; instead, internal cost-cutting measures (at 31%) were viewed as the slightly greater threat. Many of you indicated that your companies had begun to hire again.
Here are some of your direct responses in terms of how the economy has affected your companies:
- “We cut back on a lot of development projects, even ones with very promising data.”
- “Companywide pay cuts and controls on perks.”
- “Travel and education cuts.”
- “We’re locally hiring more!”
- “Vendors won’t work for us as they’re [not paid in full].”
- We’re running lean and mean!”
- “Less willing to hire consultants.”
- “Hiring more consultants.”
While the evidence is anecdotal, many experts believe that we are turning the economic corner, and that companies will loosen their purse strings, especially in terms of new hires. “We’re seeing many of our customers come back,” says Harvey Yau, Americas product manager for the scientific division of the staffing firm Kelly Scientific Resources.
Believe it or not, Yau says, it’s the core-level manufacturing and other positions that are being sought after. Companies aren’t yet ready to hire or rehire mid- and upper-level managerial positions until they can justify it within their budgets.
“Through the process of attrition, they’ve had one person doing the work of two or three people,” he says. “Now things are looking up a bit and they’re saying, ‘Let’s open up a new position.’ “
But Yau and other experts aren’t willing to go beyond cautious optimism in terms of the job outlook. Employers continue to increase productivity by cutting labor rather than increasing output, says Gregg Gordon, senior director of manufacturing industry marketing for workforce solutions provider Kronos, Inc. “The people who are left are doing more with less,” he says.
“When you do that without a methodology to improve the situation, that’s going to increase stress and reduce job satisfaction,” Gordon adds. “Manufacturers can’t just say work harder, work faster forever. They’ve got to get people back to a normal pace of work.”
Those still employed are grinding it out. “I’m not looking for the title, the rapid promotions, or the big salaries,” people are telling Rich Kneece, CEO of Massachusetts Technology Corp., which runs the hireRx.com and hireBio.com web sites. Instead they’re saying, “I’m happy to have a job.”
But for how much longer? “Many people I talk to are looking at their next move,” says Kneece. These workers have stayed with their current employers longer than they wanted, but are now more than ready to leave.