Employee gloom deepens - so why is job satisfaction up?

Workers may be more worried about redundancy - but until that day comes, perhaps they're just grateful to have a job at all...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Are the nation’s employees more resilient than expected? The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s latest employee outlook survey certainly suggests as much; it found that although employee confidence is getting shakier by the day as austerity starts to bite (particularly in the public sector), aggregate job satisfaction is actually up across the board. Then again, people are a lot more likely to be happy with the job they've got if there's a very real prospect of them not having one at all...

The CIPD surveyed 2,000 employees and discovered a pretty gloomy outlook - particularly among those working for the state. In the public sector, 50% said their organisation was planning redundancies (compared to just 10% in the private sector), while one in four were expecting to lose their jobs and 63% said stress has increased as a result of the recession (up from 54% last quarter). But the pressure is clearly cranking up across the board: 39% of private sector workers and 44% of public sector staff say they're under 'excessive pressure' at work on at least one day a week.

So given all that, it seems rather odd that net job satisfaction (i.e. the percentage of people happy in their job, minus those unhappy) has actually risen, to +42 - a seven point rise from the previous quarter. Nor is it the first time this has happened; back in spring 2009, job satisfaction actually rose as high as +46 (before plunging rapidly again). The theory is that when redundancies are in the offing, employees suddenly become much more grateful for what they've got, and stop looking around for new jobs - not least because, as two-thirds of respondents admitted, they wouldn't have much chance of getting another one.

The other alarming point was the number of public sector workers who complained about an increase in ‘stress, conflict at work, bullying by line managers and an increase in people taking time off sick’. Part of that can be put down to the extra work remaining staff are having to take on thanks to the cuts. But the worry is that managers in the state sector - who aren't used to operating in this kind of environment - may be finding it hard to cope. And if they end up alienating their staff, they're going to find it a lot harder to deliver more for less.

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