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Do 70 Million Workers Really Hate their Jobs?

02Jul 2013

     This past week headlines of newspapers, website posts, and the talking heads on TV screamed about how U.S. employees hate their jobs (and that it is the fault of their managers).  Here are some actual titles:

Millions of Bad Managers Are Killing America’s Growth (The Chairman’s Blog)

Workplace Morale Heads Down: 70% of Americans negative about their jobs   (Subtitled: “Bosses from hell’ are giving U.S. Worker the Monday blues.)  (NY Daily News)

Most Americans hate their jobs or have ‘checked out’ (LA Times)

So the headlines and news reports went last week, about a recent report released by Gallup regarding the levels of employee engagement among U.S. workers.

First, let me clearly state — the research didn’t actually say “millions of bad managers are killing America’s growth”, or that “70% of Americans are negative about their jobs”, that there are “bosses from hell” creating the problems, or that “most Americans hate their jobs”.

Let’s take a quick look at what the research actually investigated.

From Gallup’s description of the research, here are the 12 questions asked of the employees (known as Gallup’s Q12, which are copyrighted):

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Not one question about “Do you like your job?”

Most people confuse employee engagement and loving their work.  Gallup defines “engaged” employees as those who are involved in their work, are enthusiastic about what they do, and are committed to their work and contribute to their organization in a positive manner.

This may sound similar to enjoying your job, but let’s look at two examples of how they are different.  A person could enjoy their job (possibly for reasons not related to the work at all — like seeing their friends) but they really are not committed to it or contribute to positively to their company — they show up, sort of do some work, and put in their time. But they like their job because they get to hang out with their friends.

Conversely, another employee may be fully committed to what they are doing and make a significant difference through  their efforts but not really enjoy what the work — it is hard, demanding, and not “what they love to do”. But they are fully engaged in what they are doing.

The reason this is an important difference is that I firmly believe it is not the manager’s (or  employer’s) responsibility for me to like my job.

As an author who emphasizes the importance of communicating authentic appreciation to employees, I clearly am aware of the need for workers to be encouraged by the supervisors and colleagues.

But I am not willing to conclude that the lack of employee engagement within the American workforce is the sole responsibility of business leaders and managers (by the way, the survey includes individuals in those positions.)  This smacks of “I’m not a good employee because you aren’t a good leader” type of thinking — which is bunk.  There are lots of people who are excellent workers who have sub-par, and even poor managers.  My behavior and my attitude are not determined by you.

Lest I keep going and make this a longer diatribe than most people want to read, let’s stop there for today.  (Tomorrow I’ll post what I think is a key aspect to remedying the problem of the negative reports about work.)

Let me end by encouraging you to take control of your own attitude about your job — you can have a positive (or at least, not a horrible) day, if you’d like!


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