Conference Board: Workers Can't Get No Satisfaction

September 18, 2003 ( - Disgruntled workers now constitute the majority of the workforce, as less than half of all Americans say they are satisfied with their jobs.

The latest result of The Conference Board’s employee satisfaction poll reveals some disturbing trends to employers looking for positive signs form their workforce. Primary among these is that employee discontent does not discriminate, as decline in job satisfaction is found among workers of all ages and across all income brackets and regions.

Also revealed among the results was the lowest levels of employee happiness since The Conference Board began canvassing the working class in 1995. “The level of job satisfaction has been steadily on the decline since reaching nearly 59% in 1995,” says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center, in a statement. “As technology transforms the workplace – accelerating the pace of activities, increasing expectations and productivity demands, and blurring the lines of work and play – workers are steadily growing more unhappy with their jobs.”

Not surprisingly, contentment levels have a direct correlation with earnings. Those earning less than $15,000 are less satisfied with their employment – a 45.4% approval rating – than those earning in excess of $50,000. However, even among the upper crust, the overall level of satisfaction has fallen over time. In 1995, 66.5% of householders earning more than $50,000 claimed to be satisfied with their jobs compared to 53.4% today.

Overall, only about one in three workers surveyed said they were content with wages and even fewer were happy with the company’s education and job training programs (29.3%), promotions (20.0%) and bonus plans (20.1%). Oddly enough satisfaction was found for most Americans (57.9%) in their commutes. Coming in second were their co-workers (56.0%).

Age/Region Breakdowns

The most precipitous drop in satisfaction levels was found among workers between the ages of 35 and 44. In 1995, 60.9% of this age group was happy their jobs, compared with only 47.2% in the most recent survey results. With the decline, the group that was once the most content is now second to last.

Joining this group at the bottom of the satisfaction levels was the group that recorded the second largest decline, those between the ages of 45 and 54. In 1995, this group reported a job satisfaction level of 57.3%, which has plummeted all the way down to 46.1% today, the lowest reading among the various age groups. Conversely, those 65 and over claim the greatest level of satisfaction at 54%.

Perhaps the most disparity though could be found in the difference among the regional job satisfaction levels. Discontent was found to be lowest (43%) in the New England and West South Central regions. On the other end of the spectrum, r esidents of the West North Central states are the most satisfied workers (55%).

The survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households, conducted in July 2003 for The Conference Board by NFO WorldGroup.