Unhappiness Abounds in the Workplace

May 9, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com)-Are you unhappy at your job? You're not alone.

In fact, if you are young and working at a large employer, you are the least likely to be happy at your job, according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive.

The survey polled workers aged 18 and over who are employed at least 30 hours a week, and found that those employed at small organizations (fewer than 50 employees) have much more positive attitudes toward their jobs, employers, and managers than people working for large employers (5,000 employees or more). Additionally, workers aged 18-34 are more negative about their jobs, employers and managers than those age 55 and over.

Burned Out?

Overall, 41% of those polled are not satisfied in their jobs, with slightly more (42%) saying they are coping with burnout, while a third think their current job is a dead-end. Things are worse at larger firms, where 46% are not satisfied in their jobs, 45% are burned out, and 38% have hit a dead end. Small employers however, show better figures: only 36% of employees at such companies report that they are not satisfied in their job, 39% have feelings of burnout, and only 24% say their job is a dead end.

Older workers, of whom 68% are satisfied with their jobs, appear to have more stamina regarding their jobs, since only 28% of them report coping with feelings of burnout, significantly lower than the 47% of younger workers (55% of whom report job satisfaction) who feel similarly. This might be related to the fact that the personal pride of the majority of older workers (59%) comes from their job, while only 37% of younger workers say that pride comes from their work.

Buyer’s Remorse

More than half workers have “buyer’s remorse” about choosing their current employer over others, Harris reports. Overall, 44% are happy they chose their current situation, though this number is lower for those at large employers and younger workers (41% and 42%, respectively), and larger at smaller companies and among older workers (53% and 54%, respectively). Not only are they unhappy about choosing their position, but most do not think their current opportunity is the best organization to work for. Only 25% of people working for large employers feel that “this is the best organization to work for,” compared to 43% of those working for small companies.

The rise in court cases regarding corporate governance might also have an impact on how employees regard management, as only slightly more than one-third (37%) of those polled believe that “top management displays integrity and morality.” again, this perspective varied at large and small firms: only 30% of employees at large organizations agreed, compared to nearly half of those at smaller companies (48%). This difference was also seen among older and younger workers: older workers were more trusting of their managers, with 48% of older workers believing their top managers display integrity and morality, while just over a third (36%) of younger workers agreed.

While many employees appear not to trust management, few think their management is committed to advancing the skills of employees (29%). Additionally, older workers are much more likely to care about the fate of the organizations they work for (64% of older workers, compared to 47% of younger workers).

The survey, conducted for the Concours Group and Age Wave, between June 2 and 16, 2004 by Harris Interactive, polled 7,718 U.S. adults aged 18 and over who are employed at least 30 hours a week.