More Employees Unhappy At Work But Reluctant To Quit

June 20, 2011

Sad businesswoman at workA recent survey shows that many Americans are unhappy with their current jobs, but they are not at the point where they are ready to quit.

According to a press release from outplacement and consulting firm Mercer, nearly one in three U.S. workers is seriously considering quitting his or her job, which is a significant increase from six year ago when just 23 percent wanted to quit. Additionally, 21 percent are not planning to leave but have a negative opinion of their employers and have checked out of their job. These findings are based on a survey that Mercer conducted over the past two quarters. Thirty thousand employees in 17 countries were surveyed, including 2,400 workers in the U.S.

"Companies have had significant changes in their work force. They've gone through downsizing and had to reduce cash compensation and benefits," said Mindy Fox, U.S. region leader for Mercer, to The Wall Street Journal. "It feels a little bit like death from 1,000 cuts."

However, despite feelings of discontent, just 1.4 percent of employees voluntarily quit in April, according to the Labor Department. In fact, voluntary turnover is almost at its lowest point since 2000, when the Labor Department started to track such data.

According to the press release, levels of engagement--defined as a psychological state in which workers feel a vested interest in the company's success and are motivated to go above and beyond--are down across all employee segments, while intention to leave is up. The youngest workers--those 24 years old and younger--are the most anxious to quit (44 percent). Next in line are workers 25 to 34 year olds--40 percent of this group wants to leave their job.

Fox pointed out that discontent among employees is growing because of a "'disconnect' between what employers are promising and what they are delivering". Still, noted CNN Money, the slow economic recovery has made many unhappy workers reluctant to leave.

Experts stated that such erosion in employee sentiment can have negative effects on businesses.

"Diminished loyalty and widespread apathy can undermine business performance, particularly as companies increasingly look to their workforces to drive productivity gains and spur innovation," said Fox in the press release.

Furthermore, having to appease such high levels of employee dissatisfaction can be costly in other ways. Pete Foley, PhD, a Principal at Mercer and employee research consultant, pointed out that the survey highlighted the importance of being aware of employees' thoughts.

"Often, a change in mood or sentiment is not spotted until it becomes a full-blown issue," said Foley. "Employers must periodically take the pulse of their own employees to identify their specific areas of concern and link employee opinion to outcomes such as productivity and retention."

Compiled by Staff


"Half of workers unhappy in their jobs,", June 20, 2011, Ben Rooney

"One in two US employees looking to leave or checked out on the job, says What's Working research,", June 20, 2011

"Unhappy Workers Stay In Current Jobs, for Now,", June 20, 2011, Joe Light

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