Job Squeeze Is Real. Talk about it


My alma mater, the Industrial and Labor Relations School of Cornell University recently hosted a conference on “The Quality of Jobs.” They looked at how trends in what they call the “intensification” of work, the restructuring of jobs, and classic downsizing have impacted the quality of jobs and the levels of satisfaction employees (who are left) are experiencing.

While papers with their findings will be published in the new year, one clear finding is that these job and work disruptions are real and that they are widespread:

  • People are doing more and working longer hours to pick up the slack from those let go.
  • There is more “fire fighting” and handling of short-term issues and crises.
  • Employees, therefore, have less time to get at the most interesting and longer-term impact tasks of their job–the elements of their work that provide the most job satisfaction.

Trends like these can only restrict the degree of job satisfaction we experience and the sense that we are making a real difference through the work that we do. Add in the stress of this situation and that we have no sense of when it will end; this keeps us physically and psychologically in a state of heightened alert. Except for limited, short-run challenges, this state prevents us from focusing and doing our best work. Another downer.

So, when you see an employee’s level of enthusiasm drop off, when he or she appears to have become less engaged in their work, sit down and have a conversation about it. And when you do, be ready to probe for and acknowledge the presence of these types of forces and whether they are contributing to the decreased satisfaction.

The proverbial “moose” is on the table. Get real. Let’s not pretend it isn’t there.