Half of workers unhappy in their jobs

@CNNMoney June 20, 2011: 1:07 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- I'm outta here!

That's what a lot of disgruntled American workers are feeling these days.

After being squeezed by bosses looking to maximize productivity, half of U.S. employees are actively eyeing the exits or have a less than favorable opinion of their employers, according to a report Monday from Mercer, an outplacement and consulting firm.

Mercer surveyed 2,400 workers in the United States and hundreds more in other countries over the past six months.

Its report said that nearly one in three American workers is seriously considering leaving his or her job, up from 23% six years ago.

In addition, 21% said they have a negative view of their employer and have largely checked out of their job, even if they aren't looking for another one, according to the survey.

Confessions of extreme penny pinchers

This level of dissatisfaction among workers is a red flag for employers, who could face higher retention costs and decreased productivity from a burned out workforce, according to Mindy Fox, a senior partner at Mercer.

"The business consequences of this erosion in employee sentiment are significant," she said.

Of course, many unhappy workers don't have a lot of options right now.

While employers have been adding to payrolls this year, the pace of hiring has slowed significantly in recent months as the economic outlook has darkened. The economy gained a mere 54,000 jobs in May, a significant slowdown from 232,000 jobs added to payrolls in April, according to government statistics.

Employers drastically reduced head counts during the 2007-09 recession, which resulted in higher work loads for existing employees. But given the sluggish recovery in the job market, many workers have been reluctant to leave their jobs, even if they are overworked and unhappy.

The survey suggests that the combination of extra work and stagnant wage growth have taken a toll on employee morale.

More than half of those surveyed were dissatisfied with their base pay, which Mercer says is the most important element of an employment arrangement. The survey also showed low scores for career development and performance management.

Why the job market stinks

According to the survey, the share of employees interested in leaving has increased at all career levels, but younger workers are the most anxious to flee.

The survey underscores how important it is for employers to understand what their workers are thinking, said Pete Foley, an employee research consultant at Mercer.

"Often, a change in mood or sentiment is not spotted until it becomes a full-blown issue," he said.

Foley recommends that employers should meet regularly with their workers to discuss their concerns and identify links between employee morale and productivity.  To top of page

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