Do you hate your job? Well, you have plenty of company. According to an August poll from the Pew Research Center, American workers are working longer hours for less pay and taking on higher levels of stress. The survey, which was conducted during the months of June and July and included 2,003 Americans, revealed that workers, especially older ones, were less satisfied with their jobs today than they were nearly two decades ago.
In 1989, 43 percent of workers 50 and older said they were satisfied with their employer and work environment. In a recent poll, that number was down sharply to 30 percent. Meanwhile, younger workers were more satisfied in 2006 than in 1989. In the 18-29 category, the number jumped from 23 to 32 percent, while the 30-49 range showed a slight gain, going from 24-26 percent.
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The gap is likely explained by older workers being more pessimistic about the job market and threatened by globalization and lack of job security. Whatever the case, there are strong feelings from all age groups about the things employees dislike about their employers and what steps should be taken to resolve the common issues that have become entrenched in the worker-boss relationship. Meanwhile, consulting firms like Texas-based National Business Research Institute are helping companies uncover issues that impact their employees.
“I think one of the things employees dislike the most is the lack of context that their employers provide,” said Heidi Gorman, CMO of Capital H Group. “By that I mean many employees do not get enough information from their employers to have answers to basic questions like, ‘What’s really expected of me?’, ‘How will my performance be judged?’ and ‘How does what I do, day-in-and-day-out, help the overall company achieve its goals?’ It is important for all employees, regardless of what they do, to have these essential questions answered because it gives a sense of meaning to their work.”
Having that sense of meaning is vital to any employee, and it all starts with addressing the issues workers have on the job. Here’s a look at 10 of the most recognized complaints employees have about their employers.
1. Lack of Communication
The biggest problem with any relationship is lack of communication. And that extends beyond the personal life and into the work life
The issue starts when employees avoid speaking forthright to their employers for fear of retribution. A valid feeling in many cases. But there are plenty of things employers can do to open the lines of communication, like making time for employees, giving feedback, listening closely, asking questions and above all else, not hiding in the office and directing traffic solely through emails.
“Poor communication is a big problem in the workplace,” said Tonya Slawinski, a Ph.D and president of Supportive Solutions, Inc., a crisis response service for businesses. “Communication is an ongoing process rather than a static event. Employees have a high tolerance for change if kept in the loop. When communication breaks down, rumors run rampant and will directly impact productivity, focus and ultimately the finances of the company.”
2. Unfair Pay
It’s hard to find an employee who thinks they make too much money. So the best employers can do is live up to fair-wage standards.
Retail giant Wal-Mart has taken heat from all angles for paying unfair wages and benefits to its employees while reaping enormous profits. It’s a formula that raises the ire of politicians, advocates and the public, but is cheered on Wall Street.
The bottom line is that complaining about salary, in most cases, won’t increase a worker’s wage. What employees can do to boost their paychecks is emphasize their experience, improve their education, point out positive performance reviews, work less desirable, but higher paying shifts, and exemplify successes.
3. No Job Security
With outsourcing, downsizing, globalization and pressure to meet the bottom line, job security has become a scarce commodity. A substantial amount of employees have been made to feel as valuable to the company as a paper clip. Therefore, the backlash has been that workers are changing jobs at a clip of every three years
“Changing jobs has become a way of life in today’s workforce,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said during a March speech in Washington. “The average American will have had ten jobs between the ages of 18 and 38. Every year, about one-third of our workforce changes jobs, largely to take advantage of better opportunities.”
4. Under Appreciation
When an employee feels unappreciated at work, the stress it creates can have a fatal blow to the company’s productivity and bottom line. There are several ways to display appreciation, but the simplest ones are sometimes all that’s necessary. “Nothing says, ‘We don’t appreciate you’ more than when your employee has worked like crazy to finish the project, and you reward them by adding more to their plate,” said Joe Folan, Marketing Manager of Talentzoo.com, an Atlanta-based job recruiter. “You would be surprised how a half-day on Friday to begin the weekend can be greatly appreciated.”
Anytime someone receives special treatment at work, it’s bound to ruffle the feathers of fellow employees. Whether it’s more money, an undeserved promotion or a better schedule, favoritism by an employer can be a destructive force to morale. When “who you know” becomes a blatant reason for advancement or preferential treatment, employees often find it tough to swallow this bitter pill.
If you’ve never felt overworked at one time in your career, you probably don’t have a pulse. Aside from not getting paid enough, this is probably the most common employee complaint have – whether it’s true or not. And it certainly can have more impact than getting a hundred bucks less in your paycheck every week. The toll on overworked employees can include fatigue, irritability, weight gain, insomnia, and a whole host of other physical and mental ailments.
Everyone’s had the micromanaging boss breathing down their neck. The boss that’s involved is great. The one who’s over-involved can be a nightmare. The micromanager shows little trust in employees and robs them of the ability to do their job. Micromanagers usually have an obsessive-compulsive behavior and fear if they don’t stay on top of an employee, then their job is on the line. The only real way to stop an employer from micromanaging is to tell them that you can produce better results if given the freedom to do so. Of course, that conversation has to be polite and tactful.
8. Incompetent Managers
There’s at least one in every company. The man or woman who people shake their head at and ask, “How in the world did they get that job?” Thousands of unqualified bosses slip up the ranks and into positions they have no right to hold. It’s just part of the work life, and it aggravates the heck out of employees. There’s not a lot of workers can do if they’re under the thumb of a bumbling boss, so turn the situation around. If the boss is no good, it gives the employee a better chance to stand out and score major bonus points with senior management.
9. No Opportunity for Advancement
Finding yourself with a ceiling over your career is not a good place for an employee to be in. The first step is taking an honest look at the situation and listing the reasons you’re not getting promoted. If an employee feels they’re qualified and constantly getting passed up for a promotion, take the initiative, get yourself noticed and learn what’s needed to be considered for the job. It may be the simple fact that there are no positions to move up into. And if that drags on for years, it may be time to move on to another company or line of work.
10. Overbearing Boss
The nasty, overbearing boss is probably the biggest cliché of any workplace. The evil supervisor is constantly being represented on the small and big screen, including the recent film, ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ where Meryl Streep portrayed the ruthless and cynical magazine editor, Miranda Priestly. But for a lot of unfortunate employees, the miserly boss isn’t Hollywood fiction. It’s a reality that workers have to face and deal with. Employees should take on bad boss behavior by one, making sure they’re doing things right; two, documenting bad behavior; three, finding a mentor within the company to confide in, and four, if all else fails, report the ogre to a supervisor or the human resources department.
Dr. Jan Stringer is a member of the American Psychological Association, and she has authored numerous articles and publications about surveys, training, and employee and customer satisfaction.