Less than half of U.S. employees are satisified with their jobs

A new report from the Conference Board reveals that only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. A natural first reaction is to blame the current economy, but  worker satisfaction has been steadily declining from a high of 61% in 1987, when the Conference Board begun studying worker satisfaction.

I'm sure there are many contributing factors, but I have two primary theories on why this is happening.  (I'd love to hear yours, so please leave your comments...)

Theory #1: Employers are not doing a good job of hiring people who will love their jobs

The typical employee selection process includes a glance at the resume for similar job experience, an interview full of "tell me about a time when" and "where do you see yourself in five years", and a post-interview discussion about whether Candidate A or Candidate B is the best hire. Most organizations I've encountered do not put any deliberate effort into identifying whether a job applicant will fit in with the organizational culture. Sure, there may be some form of gut-check like "I think Mary would really get along with the team," but nothing specific. Some companies administer pre-hire personality assessments, but the results are often compared to a model provided by the assessment vendor rather than the employer's own workforce.

A few companies do a great job of hiring for culture fit and have some great results to show for it. Online retailer Zappos.com puts a lot of effort into hiring people who will love working there. It's no wonder they have developed a reputation for amazing customer service and they are currently #23 on Fortune's "Best Companies to Work For" list.

Theory #2: Employees are not taking enough ownership of their job satisfaction.

The current economy has definitely made it difficult to be satisfied at work, but the trend in declining worker satisfaction has spanned both good and bad job markets. There has to be more to job satisfaction than "the economy". I think it comes from unrealistic employee expectations. We want high pay, enjoyable work, wonderful co-workers, a great boss, and awesome benefits, and we want it all right now. If we're lucky, we'll get some of these, but it's wishful thinking to get it all without a lot of effort.

There seem to be two reasonable choices for dealing with a job you don't like. Choice #1: proactively figure out how to make the job enjoyable. (GREAT book on this - Love It, Don't Leave It). Choice #2: find a new job that you love, even if it means developing new skills, entering into a different field, or even readjusting your expectations. Many people expect a Choice #3: be miserable and wait for someone (the boss? the government? a genie?) to come along and make it all better, but that's unlikely to happen.