One of my partners and I discussed what the results of yesterday’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll might tell us about worker attitudes. NBC News pointed out that President Obama’s approval rating was at its lowest point.
The more troubling results of the poll were that 60% of Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the economy, and a whopping 70% said that, they believe that
“the Country is headed in the wrong direction.”
Nearly 80% stated that they were “down on the country’s political system.” Both parties may see political advantage in these numbers. However, any way one spins these numbers, they are not good for the Country.
The poll apparently did not ask employees what they thought about their employers. It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between respondents who are frustrated with the Country’s political process, and those that are dissatisfied with their workplace. I suspect that a correlation exists. Would the employee who generally believes that the country is headed in the wrong direction decide that the workplace needs change … maybe more regulation or a union? Probably.
Much has been written about the end of the workplace Social Contract. Many employees believe that the 1950’s era Informal agreement that a company would take care of you if you did a good job has been forever breached.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement and its offspring, such as the attacks on fast food restaurants and efforts to legislate a “fair wage,” show that many employees are dissatisfied with our economic model.
One conclusion from the polls is that employers should not continue to engage in “business as usual.” Even before the Great Recession, employee productivity was on the rise and employees were doing more with less. Many managers are so busy that they do not think about their more vague duties to communicate with and respond to employee concerns.
Mix dissatisfied workers with over extended managers and you get conflict in the form of lawsuits, complaints to the government, and interest in unions.
And let’s talk about unions. Organized labor has become such an insignificant portion of the non-government sector that many employees know little about unions. Employees may not even know friends and family members who are in a union and their personal experiences. Among other things, this lack of familiarity may breed ignorance about legal and practical challenges presented by a union.
It read employee handbook? Even more importantly, has the employer taken steps to make a union unnecessary?
I don’t know if these dismal polling numbers will translate to employee legal claims. Perhaps the so-called “summer of discontent” will only affect the political process. Nevertheless, the wise employer should use these polling results as a motivation to train managers and supervisors to better communicate with their employees and to respond to employee concerns.