Employees Can’t Get No Satisfaction

by Jennifer Miller on January 14, 2010

in Business Management, Leadership, Team Effectiveness

With a clumsy nod to the Rolling Stones’ classic tune, it appears to be true: since 1987, workers have become steadily less satisfied with their work.  This is according to research results released last week by The Conference Board.  What’s more, it’s not a generational thing: satisfaction is decreasing amongst all ages groups.  While the research summary doesn’t spell out specific reasons for the decline, The Conference Board does say that the current dissatisfaction isn’t solely due to poor economic conditions.

In fact, their research digs into four factors that they call the “drivers of employee engagement”:

A. Job Design

B. Organizational Health

C. Managerial Quality

E. Extrinsic Rewards

OK, guess which one I’m honing in on?  Ding, ding, ding! You got it, “C”, Managerial Quality.  That topic interests me a lot.  Seems that it interests my readers too because the post No-Cost Ideas for Energizing Your Team is one of the most viewed posts on my blog.

In the fall of 2009 there was lot of buzz about “Is HR Dead?”.  Those of us in the HR sub-niche of helping leaders develop could ask a similar question:  “Is Leadership Development Necessary?”  The answer seems to be right in front of us, if The Conference Board numbers are any indication.  It’s not time to throw in the towel yet. 

If you are a leader. . .

If you know someone who is a leader. . .

If you’re an HR practitioner with the power to influence leadership development in your organization . . .

Please, let’s work together to find practical, low-cost ways to improve “managerial quality”. The quality of our workforce and therefore our nation’s productivity, depends on it.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky Robinson January 15, 2010 at 3:50 am

Hi Jennifer —

Great encouragement from you for leaders to DO SOMETHING about one of the things that’s not working at work.

I am wondering if tough economic conditions affect managers’/leaders’ ability to stay focused on performing at their best? In this age of anxiety, people may be more focused on survival than on success and satisfaction.

The conclusion, of course, is the same: Let’s find ways to do something about it.

Thanks for getting me thinking! 🙂

DebExo January 15, 2010 at 6:03 am

Jennifer I love the question “Is Leadership Development Necessary?” and your resounding conclusion “No!”. Building on your call to action, I believe our learning communities are being called to provide bold and radical guidance/models/practicum to grow and develop global leaders for the 21st century.

Are we ready?

Thomas Waterhouse January 15, 2010 at 7:18 am

Hello Jennifer! I cannot help but to look at the relationship between “the drivers of employee engagement” and in particular “Organizational Health (OH)” and “Managerial Quality (MQ)”. Of course, the overall health of an organization affects the parts, but it doesn’t necessarily have to drive managerial outcomes. The obvious challenge, from my perspective, becomes helping the manager to stay relationally and productively healthy in a dysfunctional context, and this is an “inside job”. The “logical” understanding for energy-flow would be OH>MQ but from a “systems perspective” it could be MQ>OH, that is, IF we focus on “Managerial Health (MH)” despite organizational breakdowns. Becky certainly alludes to this, and a great article or workshop for managers would be “Overflowing When the Well Seems Dry”. I could go on forever with this topic but you, Becky and others are far better suited to that task! Thanks Jennifer; as always, you are issuing a wonderful challenge and making us think.

John January 17, 2010 at 11:28 am

Hi Jennifer!

This makes me wonder… in good times, or easy times, it appears easy to lead. But… when times get tough, when you need good leadership, it seems to disappear. Perhaps leadership in good times isn’t as good as we thought.

Thanks for the post!

Jennifer January 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Hello, all and thanks for stopping by the People Equation!

Becky, Thomas and John, your comments highlight the theme of dysfunction. Whether it’s the unhealthy behavior of a single leader or the collected dysfunction a corporate culture, employees suffer the consequences. As you have noted, it’s easier (in relative terms, I suppose) to be a better manager when times are flush. I have always believed that the true character of a person comes out in times of duress. And, to John’s tweeted question of “is Leadership Training Dead?” . . .well, we could *really* chew on that one, couldn’t we? Hmm….maybe fodder for another post.

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