Just two decades ago, jobs were for life – even if you hated yours. Offices were often dark and dingy, promotions were rare, there was no such thing as ergonomic desks and even smoking was allowed indoors. Today, not only are office spaces bright and more cheerful but many companies are now offering the option to telecommute. There are also more efficient systems in place, better laws protecting employees and far better benefits than ever before. And let’s not forget the in-house gyms, team building excursions, methodical review processes, and the boundless opportunities to grow. So what gives? Why are so many U.S. workers unhappy at work?
Job misery can have a devastating impact on individuals, and their employers. Nowadays, there are countless studies surrounding the decline in employee engagement – Gallup, Randstad and Mercer, the list goes on. Gallup has been measuring employee engagement in the United States since 2000 and finds that a whopping 77% of workers say they hate their jobs. Many report feeling no real connection to their work and state they are growing to resent their employers. Randstad has found that disengagement leads to some pretty bad habits – workers admitted that while on the job, they drank alcohol, took naps, checked or posted on social media, shopped online, played pranks on co-workers, and or watched Netflix. The pressures modern day workers are clearly causing employees to feel burnout which is a natural reaction to stressful environments, or long workdays, but job dissatisfaction at this level usually occurs after long periods of unresolved issues.
One of the biggest problems seems to be having the wrong management in place. When the wrong person is hired or promoted into a management position, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits – nothing. When employees feel that their manager has little to no interest in them as human beings – their personal lives, their aspirations and their interests, especially at work – there is bound to be job misery. If you start typing “my boss is” into the Google search engine, you get options that include “crazy”, “lazy”, “bipolar”, “abusive” and “a tyrant”.
If you do the same Google search for “my job is”, it reveals a rather bleak outlook of life in the office by finishing your sentence with “killing me”, “stressing me out”, “ruining my mental health” or “draining my soul”. Those are some pretty strong comments and cause for concern. Most alarming of all – if you type “my job is stimulating”, Google assumes you have made a typo and suggest you must have meant “not stimulating”. Workers also feel they are expected to “do more with less” – blaming business owners who aren’t willing to expand their budgets to hire more people or provide better compensation to those already in place. Losing your best people because they’re stretched too thin can be costly so many employers are getting creative. Benefits can come in many different forms – ranging from flexible hours, stipends for commuting, increased vacation time or robust development programs.
It’s important for employers to be aware of these situations, evaluate if they’re a sign of a larger issue and identify what they can do to help. Workers crave development, advancement and purpose and when they don’t’ have it, they will move on.