Increasing Job Dissatisfaction Could Spell Trouble for Employers

January 5, 2010 ( - Americans of all ages and income brackets continue to grow increasingly unhappy at work - a long-term trend The Conference Board says should be a red flag to employers.

A new survey of 5,000 U.S. households conducted for The Conference Board finds only 45% of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1% in 1987, the first year in which the survey was conducted, according to a press release. “Through both economic boom and bust during the past two decades, our job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend,” noted Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board, pointing out that dissatisfaction levels are not just a result of the recession.

“Widespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success,” warned John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board, in the announcement. Twenty-two percent of survey respondents said they don’t expect to be in their current job in a year.

The drop in job satisfaction between 1987 and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) to job security (down 17.5 percentage points) and crosses all four of the key drivers of employee engagement: job design, organizational health, managerial quality, and extrinsic rewards.

In addition, no age or income group is immune. The youngest cohort of employees (those currently under age 25) expressed the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group (64%), while between 53% and 57% of all other age groups also said they are dissatisfied.

“The growing dissatisfaction across and between generations is important to address because it can directly impact the quality of multi-generational knowledge transfer, which is increasingly critical to effective workplace functioning,” said Linda Barrington, managing director, Human Capital, The Conference Board. (See Employers Biggest Retirement Fear: The ‘Knowledge Drain’)

The Conference Board’s survey report, I Can’t Get No… Job Satisfaction, That Is, can be purchased from here