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Challenges in the Workplace are Making You Unhappy

Part Four: Challenges 21-31

written by Patrick Ow March 25, 2020
Challenges in the Workplace are Making You Unhappy

Patrick Ow shares the challenges in the changing workplace and how they are making employees unhappy.

21. The Half-Life of a Learned Skill is 5 Years

Even if employees do manage to get skilled up either on their own or through the support offered by their employers, skill obsolescence is real.

Skill obsolescence is the degree to which employees lacked up-to-date knowledge or skills necessary to maintain effective performance in their current or future work roles. To avoid skill obsolescence, employees must continuously learn new skills, acquire new knowledge, and retrain themselves.

According to John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, authors of A New Culture of Learning, the half-life of a learned skill is five years. What we learned ten years ago is essentially obsolete.

Half of what we learned five years ago will become irrelevant.

The authors of The 100-Year Life noted that as employees face employment spanning sixty to seventy years, they expect employers will help them continually reinvent themselves, move from role to role, and find their calling over time. Of the respondents surveyed, 83% say that their employers are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression. Also, 42% believed that employees will have careers that span five years or less.

Deloitte asked:

What does it mean in a world where careers span sixty years, even as the half-life of learned skills continues to fall to only about five years? In the past, employees learned to gain skills for a career; now, the career itself is a journey of learning.

22. Employees’ Jobs Have Use-By Dates

Given the current rate of technological change and the half-life of a learned skill, jobs and careers have much shorter use-by dates. According to The Age, every career and job has a ‘use-by’ date.

Lawyers, accountants, and doctors can practice until they drop. That’s in theory at least. They face ‘tripwires’ in their careers that will determine whether they will become well-regarded high flyers or mere journeymen. Lawyers can become partners of law firms within eight or nine years of starting out. This requires significant personal sacrifices.

Unfortunately, many ‘tripwires’ exist long before retirement.

If employees don’t make it to the top of their careers by age 40, the climb up the corporate ladder is over.

It is reported by Find the Company that the 40 highest-paid CEOs in the world are under 40. The irony is that when you are fortunate enough to have climbed the corporate ladder and moved into the corner office, Executives Style notes that “you’ll spend around 70% of your time trying to hold on to your job … you’ll be too busy fighting off everyone else who, just like you, wants the corner office.”

People play the game of office politics to hang on to their jobs to the detriment of those who do not play the game. Perhaps those employees who cannot stomach office politics will be at the disadvantage.

23. Employees Are Not Working in Their Field of Study

The perfect picture that graduates and employees can turn a beloved interest into a beloved career seems a distant past.

Gallup found that 51% of Americans who pursued a postsecondary education would change their degree type, institution, or major.

In the U.S., Forbes reported that 60% of college graduates cannot find a full-time job in their chosen profession. The Washington Post said that only 27% of college graduates have a job related to their major with a significant number of underemployed.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that only 44% (5.0 million) of the 11.3 million employed Australians aged 15 to 64 years had a qualification and worked in the field of their highest qualification.

In the U.K., The Independent reported that only half of all graduates are working in a field that relates to their degree after leaving university. A shocking 96% had switched careers by the time they reached the age of 24.

24 Employees Are Not Valued at Work

A study of 4,500 employees by TINYpulse discovered that a massive 79% don’t feel strongly valued for the work they put in. They also found that 66% do not see strong opportunities for growth in their current role and 26% do not believe they have the tools to succeed.

Researchers found that employee retention is tied to recognition, praise sways the perception of the work environment, appreciation improved peer-to-peer relationships, and employee-supervisor relationships relied on recognition.

Globoforce found that 55% of workers say they would leave their current jobs for an organization that clearly recognizes its employees’ efforts and contributions. They also found that 64% of employees currently feel appreciated in their jobs.

25, Employees Are Lonely at Work

Loneliness is a growing health epidemic. Research showed that 40% of Americans and 60% of Australians often feel lonely. One in five Americans suffered from persistent loneliness.

According to Belonging Space, 38% of U.K. workers felt isolated or lonely in the workplace.

What’s interesting is that 42% of people say that they do not have a close friend at work, research by Relate showed. Whilst not having a close friend at work does not necessarily equal loneliness, it often does.

Loneliness increases the risk of death by 26%, according to Perspectives on Psychological Science. In addition, a study by the University of York found that lonely people are around 30% more likely to suffer a stroke or heart disease. 

When workers feel lonely, research published by the Academy of Management Journal showed that loneliness can lead to a poorer task, team role, and relational performance.

26. Employees Are Unhappy and Disengaged

In a survey of 142 countries, Gallup found that only 13% of employees were engaged in their jobs. In Australia and New Zealand, it’s a higher percentage of 24%.

This means that there are a lot of unhappy or disengaged employees working in organizations. They may be looking out for better jobs and opportunities. Business Insider said that the Australian Institute of Management’s 2016 Staff Retention Report showed that more than half (54.6%) of businesses across Australia are worried about retaining good staff, up from 48.8% in 2015.

27. Employees Are Impacted by Office Politics

The prevalence of office politics is causing severe stress on workers. This is an indication that many organizations are struggling to manage their office culture.

Leading recruiter Adecco found that 33% of U.K. workers cite office politics as a major contributing factor to feeling unhappy in the workplace. Findings revealed 29% are spending every Sunday dreading the coming working week, 28% admitted to calling in sick because of anxiety, and 36% would consider leaving their employer.

Research shows that when workers perceived their workplace as more political, they are less engaged, less productive, and more likely to quit.

Yet, a more effective way of dealing with office politics is to engage in them and play the game. Good politics involve advancing one’s interests but not to the neglect of other people’s rights or the organization’s legitimate interests. It includes acceptable ways of getting recognition for your contributions and having your ideas taken seriously. Unfortunately, bad politics include wrangling, maneuvering, sucking up, backstabbing, and rumor-mongering.

28. Employees Are Bullied at Work

Another reason for unhappy employees is the prevalence of bullying in workplaces.

The U.S. Workplace Bullying Institute found that 19% of Americans were bullied in the workplace, 19% witnessed bullying, and 61% were aware of abusive conduct. Bullying affected 60 million Americans where 70% of perpetrators are men and 61% of bullies are bosses.

According to Safe Work Australia, the bullying rate has increased from 7.5% in 2010-11 to 9.7% in 2014-15.

These results are not surprising given that employees face many challenges, making them unhappy and disengaged at work.

According to LegalZoom’s Workplace Insight Report for Businesses 2018, only 26% of workers have faith that their employer can take timely action to address workplace issues or scandals. This indicates a major problem when it comes to handling grievances.

29. Employees Are Working Longer Hours

According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.

It is reported by News.com.au that a full-time Australian employee works 4.28 hours more than they are contracted to do each week. This adds up to $8,704 annually for someone on an average wage.

The Morgan McKinley Flexible Work Practices Survey revealed that 77% of Australian professionals felt that they worked beyond their contracted hours with 22% surveyed working ten hours or more than their agreed hours. Of those surveyed, 63% felt obligated to work in excess of their contractual or office hours.

Employers may be taking advantage of the situation due to a lack of job security by forcing employees to work longer hours, sometimes against their will.

30. Employees Are Emotionally Over-Committed by Work

According to a study, the term “over-commitment” refers to people who are doing way too much. It also occurs at work when workers are doing too much because of increasing work demands, increasing workloads, and other workplace pressures.

Personal behavior that may point to over-commitment at work includes:

  1. Overwhelmed easily by time pressures at work
  2. Start thinking about work problems as soon as they get up in the morning
  3. Can’t relax and switch-off work when they get home
  4. People close to them say they have sacrificed too much for their job.
  5. Work is still on their mind when they go to bed.
  6. They have trouble sleeping at night because of the thought of unfinished work.

It is found that 59% of Americans are overworked and 32% believed that unreasonable workload has caused work stress in their lives.

The American Working Conditions Survey found that one in four workers perceived that they have too little time to do their job and more than one in four reported a poor fit between their working hours and their social and family commitments.

Whilst it may be difficult to unplug from work, there are benefits for doing so. To have a sustainable lifestyle and family life, it’s about effective recovery from work outside of work.

Workers must completely refrain from work-related activities and thoughts during non-work time. They must not think about work.

They need to set proper and healthy boundaries and constraints upon themselves. These boundaries ensure that work, health, and relationships are not compromised.

Unfortunately, one researcher found that workers that quit work commitments still have these commitments lingering in their minds for some time.

31. Work Stress Increases Sickness and Poor Health

It is common knowledge that prolonged stress will lead to sickness and poor health. The stress of working long hours and being discriminated against are other causes of work stress.

Harvard Medical School conducted a study on over 500,000 people and found that those who worked 55 hours or more per week were 33% more likely to have a stroke and 13% more likely to have a heart attack.

A study by Diabetes Care showed that workers who experienced increasing stressful jobs were 57% more likely to develop diabetes.

The long-term burnout and stress are real.

Logically stepping away from work for the sake of one’s health is far more important than putting themselves at risk with a host of illnesses.

Here’s the problem. If working long hours causes sickness, then employees’ health and jobs will also be at risk. They will not be able to hang on to their jobs as they will burn out. They cannot compete with younger employees as they cut back on their working hours just to reduce the likelihood of sickness or poor health.

Research by Wellness Daily found that 3.74 million Australian workers have used at least one day of their sick leave for mental health or stress in the past twelve months. The research found that full-time workers were more likely to have taken leave for mental health, compared to part-time workers (36% compared to 32%).

This is an extract from my ebook, Shocking Secrets Every Worker Needs to Know: How to Future-Proof Your Job, Increase Your Income, Protect Your Wealth in Today’s Digital Age (Kindle Edition), available from Amazon.

Find an updated list here or subscribe here to read all 108 challenges.

This is Part Four of an eight-part series.

Part One- Problems and Challenges Faced By Employees at Work

Part Two- The Changing Workforce: Age, Technology, and Employment

Part Three- The Changing Workforce is Bringing Challenges to Employees

Part Five- Discrimination and Poor Treatment in the Workplace

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