Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Job Satisfaction

Many surveys have found that 80-90 percent of people say they are satisfied with their jobs. Recently I saw a reference to one that found a much lower level of satisfaction. According to the Conference Board, "only 45 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with their jobs, which is a marked drop from the more than 61 percent who said they were satisfied in 1987."  They gave no detail about their survey, and I wasn't curious enough to spend $395 for the full report, but I found a Washington Post story that gave a little detail.  They ask people to rank their satisfaction at work on a scale of 1-5, and the 45% refers to people who rated their job a 4 or 5.  So possibly there are a lot of people who pick an intermediate response (3) to this question, but say they are satisfied when forced to make a yes/no choice ("can't complain").  The Washington Post story also said that the survey was based on a mail-in questionnaire, and it's possible that people who aren't happy are more motivated to send it in. 

I looked for questions on job satisfaction using a similar format--ones that asked people to pick a number without attaching labels to it.  There aren't many.  You have to go back to 1984 for a Gallup survey that asked people to pick a number from 1-10.  In that survey, 64% chose 7-10, and 18% chose 4-6.  The most common response was 10 (24%), and then the percentages tapered off pretty steadily.  So it doesn't seem like there are a lot of people in the middle.   

PS:  The 1984 Gallup survey asked half of the sample a standard "would you say you are satisfied or dissatisfied" question:  70% said yes, and 20% said no, which is a lower level of satisfaction than what is usually found.  With both forms of the question, about 10% said they didn't know, which I find surprisingly high--it seems like the kind of thing almost everyone would have an opinion on. 

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