Monday, February 15, 2010

Fewer in U.S. are satisfied with jobs

Even in a down economy, many long for meaning By Patricia Montemurri • DETROIT FREE PRESS • February 15, 2010 Odds are you're unhappy at your job. And we've got the numbers to prove it. Only 45.3 percent of Americans are "satisfied" with their work, according to a survey for the Conference Board Consumer Research Center released last month. When asked the same question in 1987, more than 61 percent of Americans said they were content with work. It might seem crass to be whining about job satisfaction when so many people have been laid off, bought out and displaced. But the study authors said that once the economy rebounds, disaffected workers could be a drag on a company's performance. The survey numbers showed a steady drop in job satisfaction even when the economy was booming and despite increases in income. Behind the decline, researchers said, is the perception that work is less interesting, engaging and meaningful. "Employees largely judge the overall quality of their jobs in terms of the degree to which they are challenged or stimulated," the report said. Sheila Johnson, 47, of Detroit, knows what makes her happy as a human resources technology services expert for the city. And she knows what makes her feel dissatisfied. "I love the challenges," Johnson said. "I love the problem-solving." In her current capacity, Johnson is working to improve efficiency. At previous jobs Johnson felt dissatisfied when she felt as if she was not fully trusted, or when she was prevented from performing at full tilt. "I'm self-motivated. I'll fix the world for you, but if you micromanage me, it's a problem," Johnson said. Most like co-workers How we are treated at work matters, experts say. And the survey cites co-workers as one of the top things many people actually like about their jobs. Our appreciation for our co-workers was the second-most-liked aspect of our jobs, with 56 percent of employees rating interaction with work buddies as satisfactory. Still, we don't like them as much as we used to. In 1987, satisfaction with co-workers was cited as satisfactory by 68 percent. But likable cubicle mates don't solve everything. Since 1987, the percentage of people who said they were interested in their work has dropped from 70 percent to 51 percent. "You're not going to get the maximum effort from an employee who's not interested in the job, and that could impact the bottom line," said Lynn Franco of the Conference Board. For many workers, it's the lack of potential growth that leads to dissatisfaction. Even if you've avoided layoffs and buyouts, it may seem there's less room for advancement because there is less voluntary turnover. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that from January to November 2009, 19.6 million people quit their jobs, the lowest amount since 2000. The Conference Board survey suggests employees are antsy — 22 percent said they didn't expect to be in their current job next year. "There is a desire to move on, but because of the economy, decisions about job mobility are extremely limited," Franco said. "But once the economy improves, employees can talk with their feet."

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