Why are we unhappy at work?
That’s the question I wanted to answer when I found out that 84% of global
professionals are unhappy at work.
Here’s what I discovered as the Founder and Career Happiness Coach of
There are many reasons why we are unhappy at work, but here are the top eight
reasons we are unhappy at work now.
1. Poor Relationships with Boss/Co-workers
The number one reason most people dislike their jobs is because they don’t like
the people they are working with – especially their boss. In fact, 44% of all
workers who left their jobs left because of a bad boss, according to Bamboo HR.
In some cases, this stems from issues with people managers and Human
Resource departments. For example, I had a high tech client who told me that
when she went to her HR Manager in confidence to get help with her boss that
the HR Manager told her boss about the conversation behind her back. The boss
treated her even worse after that until she had no option other than to find
another job. Although I believe this is an extreme example versus the norm, it
does show that a bad boss-employee relationship can cause employees great
unhappiness and even drive them to leave their jobs.
2. Lack of Recognition and Security
The second most important reason why people are unhappy at work is due to
lack of recognition and security. In the Gig economy, it seems like most jobs are
really just temporary project assignments. As a result, many employees feel they
are disposable commodities versus valued humans.
Although 88% of employees believe that it’s important for employers to reward
employees for great work, only 41% say their employer effectively rewards them,
according to AttaCoin. The lack of recognition especially combined with lack of
job security, cause many employees to feel disengaged and unhappy about their
3. Unable to Use Talents/Creativity/Lack of Career Development
IBM found that 81% of employees are happier at work when they agree that their
jobs effectively make use of their skills/abilities. The reverse is also true. When
people feel they are stuck in the same job for years with no opportunity for
growth or the role itself is designed so they are not able to use their talents or
express their creativity, then they are unhappy at work.
4. Don’t Like Company/See Future with Company
91% of people who left their jobs in the last three years also left their companies
to find employment somewhere else, according to Gallup. So, when people look
for new jobs, they most often want to work for a new company. I saw this same
phenomenon in the InspiredWork Quiz Results where global professionals said
they didn’t feel aligned with the company and its values and didn’t see a future
for themselves there.
5. Feel Under-paid or Unfairly Compensated
Money is an issue, especially when the cost of living is going up every year and
many employees do not get raises at all let alone ones that cover inflation.
According to Glassdoor, employees earn a 5.2% increase in pay on average
when changing jobs. So, there is a built-in incentive to switch jobs to cover cost-
of-living increases every 15-18 months, which is about how often most
Americans stay in one job.
It is also important to note that 90% of millennials – the group of workers who
change jobs most frequently – said they would choose to stay in a job for the
next 10 years, if they knew they’d get annual raises and upward career mobility,
according to Qualtrics.
6. Lack of Flexibility with Benefits & Commute
Different people want different benefits. So, a major issue for many people is
finding a company that offers flexible benefits – benefits that matter to them. For
example, 62% of employees under 50 wouldn’t consider working for a company
that didn’t offer voluntary benefits, according to BenefitsPro. Also, many of my
clients at InspiredWork highly prize the ability to work from home regularly so
they can increase their work-life balance (see reason #7 below).
7. Work-Life Imbalance
McKinsey coined the term “The New Normal” to describe the post-recession
economy. One often overlooked aspect of the New Normal is that after
companies automated and sent jobs offshore, they asked the remaining workers
to take on significantly more work without any additional compensation in most
cases. As a result, many remaining employees feel that they have to do more
hours and more work just to keep their jobs or face being replaced.
Work-life imbalance is now one of the top eight issues facing employees,
according to the Work Institute. And, 95% of human resource leaders admit
employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention in 2017, according to
8. Want to Start Own Company, But Can’t
The final reason that people are unhappy at work is because they want to start
their own companies, but many of them can’t. In fact, 54% of millennials and 41%
of all adults would quit their job and start a business, if they had the tools needed
(America's Small Business Development Centers). With the rise of the Internet
and more and more people successfully creating online information product
businesses, there has been an increase in the number of people who want to
start their own company and be their own boss. In fact, the 2017 Annual
Kauffman Index said that startup activity is up for the third consecutive year. But,
still there are even more would-be entrepreneurs who are stuck as unhappy
With all of these issues, is it any wonder that Udemy reported that 60% feel
stressed all or most of the time at work and that I found that 84% of global
workers are unhappy at work?
What do you think is the biggest reason people are unhappy at work
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