Morale among British workers hits all-time low

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The Independent Online

Job satisfaction among British employees has slumped to unprecedented levels because of uninspired leadership, a damning report says today.

Job satisfaction among British employees has slumped to unprecedented levels because of uninspired leadership, a damning report says today.

The problem is at the root of a productivity crisis that means the output of the typical worker is 30 per cent less than that of our keenest competitors in Europe and America, says the report by the Industrial Society, which is renamed the Work Foundation from today.

Too many boardrooms are complacent about getting the best from their employees, it says. "Too few UK organisations are visionary; too few set themselves the task of audaciously 'doing something great', too few equip their organisations with the workplaces that might pull off such ideas."

A survey by the independent think-tank shows that job satisfaction has plummeted. In 1992, 22 per cent of employees were very satisfied with their job prospects, but by 2000 this had fallen to 15 per cent. The number of workers content with their pay dropped from 25 per cent to 13 per cent, job security fell from 43 to 39 per cent, the proportion satisfied with their working hours slid from 44 to 24 per cent, and happiness with the work itself decreased from 54 to 41 per cent.

Growing disaffection has led to a "new critical attitude" among employees, who are becoming less loyal, less committed and less prepared to sacrifice their life outside the office, in a "widespread retreat of discretionary effort".

Many employees are no longer prepared to make work a priority and thus the number of people who work "only as hard as they have to" has doubled to 13 per cent, the report says. This "profoundly worrying" trend is blamed on the failure of businesses to manage their staff effectively, instill a sense of purpose or encourage them to show initiative and responsibility.

In contrast, European businesses organise their workplaces more "intelligently and creatively" so workers feel motivated to perform.

The report says that despite nine years of economic growth, falling unemployment and longer working hours, the "yawning" productivity gap has not improved. The biggest economic problem remains under-performance. But without better people management and more inspiring workplaces, productivity will remain stalled, the report warns.

British offices still resemble "work kennels" where workplace relations are viewed as essentially contractual. Only 46 per cent of employees have any say about their working hours and one-third of workers are required to clock on.

"UK enterprises are over-controlled and under-led. Too much effort is given to monitoring adherence to immediate rules or established systems, and not enough is spent on creating environments in which clear, formal goals are issued to allow employees to develop and manage themselves and make a full and willing contribution to the success of UK enterprises," the report says.

"Without meaningful work and workplaces ... the UK's productivity revolution will remain stalled."

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