Do you greet every workday with unbridled enthusiasm? At one time I could honestly answer yes to that question. Today, I must admit I am no longer part of the minority.
This past January, I came across a survey titled “U.S. Job Satisfaction at Lowest Level in Two Decades.” It hardly seemed an earth-shaking revelation. Wages have been stagnant, job security shaky and returns on investments abysmal – not exactly the seeds of contentment. Yet upon examination, I realized this wasn’t a dim-witted comparison of one miserable year against an outstanding one. For over 20 years, The Conference Board, a not-for-profit organization, has tracked work attitudes through good times and bad. Except for a small uptick in 2005, job satisfaction across all age and income groups has been on a steady downward slide. At the end of 2009, 55 percent of those surveyed were dissatisfied with their jobs. The Board characterized its findings as a “big, red flag” but refrained from pointing fingers.
I, on the other hand, am free to speculate to my heart’s content and can explain, at least to my satisfaction, why this trend has occurred in lockstep with the era of the personal computer and why it is most pronounced among the youngest and oldest workers.
The Trojan computer – Businesses embraced computerization in the 80s for greater productivity. But as software dumbed down entire occupations to the level of the untrained novice, specialized education and professional experience was devalued. Pride in one’s own talents and mastery of unique skills dried up along with job satisfaction.
Old dogs don’t hunt – In 1987, 71 percent of people 65 years of age and older were satisfied with their jobs. At the end of last year, it was a scant 43 percent. Is this a reflection of consternation over pension plans or resentment at being ushered off to pasture without the respect accorded to previous generations? In 1987, business elders were still the esteemed sages with a treasure chest of experience to share. Today, the gray-haired group is more apt to be looked upon as relics espousing old ideas of no practical value.
Maybe when you grow up – Employees under the age of 25 fare no better when it comes to respect, which may help explain why less than 36 percent are happy on the job. Whiz kids are the competitive edge for growing companies. Presidents know it, middle managers know it and the kids themselves know it. But when it comes to sharing credit or accepting advice, few grown-ups readily give a full measure of recognition to someone barely out of their teens.
I’ve only poked around the periphery of this issue. If job satisfaction is truly on the skids, it is a problem that will do increasing harm the longer it goes unresolved.
Have a profitable day,