shutterstock_129701171If you’re somewhat less than enthusiastic about getting up each workday and heading off to your job, you’ve certainly got a lot of company. According to the latest job satisfaction survey (published in June 2014) by The Conference Board, a global, independent business membership and research association, even though job satisfaction levels currently are the highest they’ve been since the beginning of the Great Recession, the majority of American workers—tens of millions of men and women—continue to be unhappy at work.

The survey, which was conducted in the fall of 2013 among 5,000 U.S. households, revealed that fewer than half (47.7 percent) of Americans say they are satisfied with their jobs. And even though this represented a slight improvement from 2012 and 2010—when satisfaction levels stood at 47.3 percent and 42.6 percent (an all-time low), respectively—overall job satisfaction remains historically low, extending a trend that began as we entered the 21st Century.

By comparison, job satisfaction levels in the 1980s and 1990s routinely approached 60 percent or higher; 2005 was the last year that a majority of Americans (52.1 percent) said they were satisfied with their jobs.


The survey examined overall job satisfaction by focusing on its basic component parts. Specifically, respondents were asked a.) to rate their overall level of satisfaction with various aspects of their jobs; and b.) to identify which aspects of their jobs were most important to them. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Respondents said they are least satisfied withpromotion policy, bonus plan, training programs, performance review, and recognition. In somewhat of a seeming contradiction, however, and despite the apparently stalled overall satisfaction level and the downward historical trend, satisfaction in some key areas—compensation, recognition and career development—are near ten-year highs, according to the survey.
  • Employees said they are most satisfied with their work environment andrelated elements, e.g., people they work with, interest in their work, commute time, physical environment, and supervisor.
  • In terms of both importance and as critical drivers of overall job satisfaction, respondents cited the following elements: communication channels, interest in work, recognition, and workload. Somewhat surprisingly, they gave a low priority to commute time to work, health insurance and retirement plans, and sick-day and vacation policies.


Looked at from an overall, broad perspective, there seem to be some apparent contradictions in The Conference Board survey findings. Or, at the very least, some of the survey findings can be somewhat confusing. For example, although respondents indicated they were least satisfied with recognition, the level of this overall job satisfaction element is said to be approaching a ten-year high! Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn here is that, despite an upward trend in overallsatisfaction on this criterion, there still is a way to go before it reaches a more acceptable level. Also, it seems to be somewhat counter-intuitive that the satisfaction level with compensation is said to be on the rise, when real wage and salary stagnation remains such a vital concern for so many workers in today’s job market, except, of course, for those at or very near the top of the salary scale.

Nonetheless, and despite any apparent contradictions in the survey findings, in my opinion, the key figure to focus on is the overall level of job satisfaction, 47.7 percent. Any time over one-half of the people are dissatisfied with any product or service—and in this case, the “product” is one’s job—it should be cause for genuine concern. And certainly that should be the case with regard to the nation’s employers.


How did we go from having six out of ten American workers in the last two decades of the 20th Century saying they were satisfied with their jobs and their employers to fewer than one-half expressing satisfaction today? Notwithstanding the fact that the national and world economies are dynamic and ever evolving, and by extension, the job market, I believe that the single biggest, most important factor driving down the overall level of job satisfaction was the Great Recession. Or, more precisely, it was the massive, highly negative fallout from that economic cataclysm that not only washed out millions of jobs worldwide but also created an ever-widening rift between workers and the companies that employed them, effects which are still quite evident today.

Whereas before the Great Recession there may have been at least some level of trust between workers and the companies that employed them, that trust was severely tested and often eroded once the full effects of the recession set in and massive layoffs and frequent downsizings followed. Both employees who managed to survive and keep their jobs and the companies that employed them adopted a siege mentality. Fear and uncertainty prevailed across virtually all segments of the economy and the job market. It undoubtedly will take still more time for such feelings and attitudes to dissipate and be replaced with feelings and attitudes that are more positive, particularly on the part of employees.


As the survey indicated, the picture in the job market today certainly is not all gloom and doom. While it is obvious that there continues to be considerable room for improvement, it is equally obvious that some key indicators of overall job satisfaction are headed in the right direction. Plus, the economy in general and the job market in particular give every sign of continued improvement—at last!

Companies that have been running lean and mean in recent years today are adding new jobs to stay competitive in the global marketplace; more jobs can be expected to be added as the recovery continues and business accelerates. Employees who chose to “hunker down” when the job market literally froze up are now investigating new, better career opportunities, and that’s certainly the case where the TOP performers are concerned. Taken together, these factors can be expected to have a favorable effect—eventually—on overall job satisfaction, I believe.

How satisfied are you with your current position? If you are somewhat less than satisfied, you will be pleased to learn that there has not been a better time in years than today to seriously investigate new career opportunities. And again, that is especially true for those who have positioned themselves as TOP-tier candidates. Now may be precisely the time when you can land the job you deserve—your DREAM job!


Be sure to check out Career Stalled?, Skip’s latest book in the“Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of Career Development & Management publications. Click HERE to watch a one-minute video preview of Career Stalled? on YouTube.

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