Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The bad news about job satisfaction

Last Friday, The Conference Board released its latest findings on job satisfaction. It reported that less than half of us are satisfied with our jobs. Unsurprisingly, the numbers drop lower among workers under 25, those earning under $15,000/yr, and those who work where I grew up -- the congested, expensive, and stressful NY, NJ, PA tri-state area.

What is surprising is that 61% of us, substantially more of us than today, were satisfied with our jobs 20 years ago. That was 1987, which, by the way, wasn't all that great a year. As I recall it, the real estate and stock market bubbles were bursting, the industrial heartland was still rusting, and we were flirting with recession. It was a lot like today actually.

What is different is that we have been subjected to a barrage of empowerment, teamwork, recognition, and my personal favorite, 'fun at work' schemes since 1987. I've seen a library's worth of books on these topics and I've contributed to their dissemination, too. Nevertheless, job satisfaction is dropping, not rising.

That suggests a couple of possibilities: Maybe employers are just paying lip service to all these ideas for making work fulfilling or maybe all that stuff just doesn't matter much in the real world. It sounds like a coin flip to me.

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