Is Work a 4-Letter Word?

Take this job and… you can probably fill in the blank.  That is what an astounding number of employees seem to be thinking:

  • According to a 2010 report by Mercer, nearly one third of US workers are seriously considering leaving their jobs, up from 23% in 2005. 
  • Fewer than 1 in 3 employees worldwide (31%) are engaged. Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) are actually disengaged. Engagement levels vary by region from 37% in India to 17% in China. (Blessing White 2011 Employee Engagement Survey)
  • In February, June, and October of 2010, the number of employees voluntarily quitting surpassed the number fired or discharged. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).
The overall trend is disturbing. Obviously, working environments, expectations, and individual experiences vary greatly.  So why do so many employees feel so strongly (and negatively) about their work?  The American Psychological Association surveyed more than 1,700 U.S. employees and found that lack of appreciation was the number one reason for leaving a job; a Gallup poll concluded that the primary reason was a bad boss.
Despite decades of knowledge, studies and feedback that show that management (and someone’s direct boss in particular) has a significant impact on a person’s happiness, motivation, and engagement at work, the story has not changed much.  The conclusion that I draw is twofold: 1) many companies still have not learned to promote strong supervisory skills and leadership potential over technical skills, and 2) in the absence of a great manager, employees need to take more of their happiness, career progression, and satisfaction into their own hands.
I believe that engagement, satisfaction, and meaning can be found at work when strengths and inherent talents, interests, and goals are aligned.  Combined with strong communication and initiative, any limitations of the immediate manager can be largely overcome by the employee himself (or herself).  Once someone realizes this, the sense of empowerment and possibility expand, and their realization that work is what they make of it sets in.  And that’s where opportunity overcomes victimization.  Work (and the individual) is transformed.