Let’s talk work.
After all, we’ve just celebrated Labour Day, which not only marks the unofficial end of summer, but also celebrates our daily grind. Labour Day is supposed to be a yearly tribute to what we achieve at the office or the plant or on the food service floor, so it’s the perfect time to figure out why so many people I know hate their jobs.
That’s a terrible thing to say, I know, but I’m not exaggerating. The discontent is not limited by profession, either, nor by geography, age or gender.
Many of this country’s workers are unhappy, and one of the most common complaints is about their bosses. They can be overbearing and maybe disorganized. There are condescending or passive-aggressive ones. There are shouters, and there are mutes, and there are some who are just as disengaged as their employees. People gripe about being underappreciated, about going unrecognized.
I should preface this by saying that, while I have had a handful of rotten bosses over the years, I have been very lucky to have had many wonderful superiors in the great majority of jobs I’ve held as an adult. I like to think I’m a hard worker who doesn’t give cause to get on my case because I always have my work done, but it’s probably less that and more dumb luck. Either way, I have only left one job in my life because of a bad boss, and that was many years ago. I have a job that I love and anyone would be lucky to have my boss.
A friend who works at a dental office out west recently bemoaned that, while she was happy with her pay and her benefits, she still wanted something more from her bosses. “A thank you when I stay late would go a long way,” she told me.
She’s hardly alone. Many employees don’t know what it’s like to get a pat on the back or some other verbal recognition for a job well done. They’re rarely told that they, and what they do, matter.
Another friend, who works in sales, told me several months ago that she wished she had a job that meant something; work that had purpose beyond hitting quarterly quotas.
I know this subject sounds a little touchy-feely, a gripe session maybe better suited for a night out with friends, but it’s a much-studied and proven fact that employee satisfaction does affect the bottom line. Just last month, I read a piece that highlighted the importance of happiness at work, particularly now as the workforce is being disrupted by automation. That research firm’s interest in well-being on the job isn’t new; it also published a paper called, “How leaders kill meaning at work,” and it touches on some of the concerns I’ve heard expressed over the years.
The authors of the paper concluded that “managers at all levels routinely – and unwittingly – undermine the meaningfulness of work for their direct subordinates through everyday words and actions. These include dismissing the importance of subordinates’ work or ideas, destroying a sense of ownership by switching people off project teams before work is finalized, shifting goals so frequently that people despair that their work will ever see the light of day, and neglecting to keep subordinates up to date on changing priorities for customers.”
Harsh, yes. But the number of people who share those sentiments can’t be ignored.
Even as income has inched up slightly in many sectors, most workers are just going through the motions at work. The most recent workplace report by Gallup shows that only 33 per cent of American workers feel engaged at work. That means that 67 per cent of them have checked out. While the same research on Canadian workers isn’t readily available, I have to assume it’s at least similar.
American workers are sleepwalking through the day, waiting for lunch or quitting time, uninterested in improving their own performance or the company’s profitability.
Other research has found that 79 per cent of employees who quit their jobs claim that a lack of appreciation was a major reason for leaving, and that 82 per cent feel the boss doesn’t recognize them for what they do.
Ouch. Doesn’t sound like an uplifting Labour Day topic, does it? Nope, the dissatisfaction is real. Those guys and gals who keep computers running, documents filed, roofs fixed, children learning, plates of food served, cars waxed, taxes filed, and letters delivered, still want the work to be valued.
Can’t really blame people, can you?