Workforce.com

The Longer Employees Work at a Company, the Less Happy They Are, Study Finds

February 10, 2005

      Employees’ job satisfaction declines the longer they work for their employers, according to one new study.

      The finding is in a new book, The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want by David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind and Michael Irwin Meltzer of Sirota Consulting. The book is based on research by Sirota Consulting, including a survey of about 1.2 million employees, mainly in large companies, between 2001 and 2004.

      According to Sirota’s research, there is some improvement in the satisfaction of employees with more than 10 years' experience with their employers, but it’s not as high as when they started on the job.

      The company finds that employee job satisfaction (on a 100-point scale) averages out as follows:

        • Employees with an average of six months with employer: 80
        • Employees with one to five years working for employer: 69
        • Employees with six to 10 years working for employer: 68

        David Sirota says that the declines in satisfaction are even greater than the numbers show. That’s because the unhappy employees often leave and are no longer included in the data.

        In many cases, Sirota believes, the low morale is a result of a gap between what a company says its goals are and the message it really sends to its workforce. A firm might say “quality is job one,” according to Sirota, but managers may leave employees just enough time to get the product out the door, regardless of its quality.

        About 10 percent of companies, he says, buck the trend. These “super-high-morale organizations,” he says, include the Barron’s division of Dow Jones (Barron’s is  “incredibly engaged,” he says), as well as Intuit, the Mayo Clinic, Southwest Airlines, Crescent Real Estate Equities, Continental Airlines and FedEx. “Their honeymoon lasts through employees’ careers.” These organizations, Sirota says, generally have a minimal amount of bureaucracy and fairly flat structures. Lower-level employees sense that they are treated pretty much the same way senior managers are.

        This sense, he says, is passed down by the CEO. Southwest Airlines, for example, has a highly unionized workforce, but customers can’t help but notice the employees’ high morale. Employees’ feelings about the company stem from a sense that the company is a positive influence in the community and is concerned about its customers.