We can't all be expected to love our jobs, but these days, it seems like most workers have the complete opposite sentiment. According to a report by the Conference Board, a nonprofit research group, roughly 52% of Americans are unhappy at work. That's a big jump from 1987, the first year the survey was conducted, when only 39% were dissatisfied with their jobs.
Given the number of hours the typical worker spends each week on the job, it's troubling to learn just how many of us are, in fact, miserable. If you're among the majority of workers who identify as disgruntled more so than anything else, it may be time for a new job or even a career change -- before your sanity and well-being take a major hit in the process.
What's making us unhappy?
It's one thing to feel pressured at work in the days leading up to a major deadline, or get bored with a particular task that's part of your everyday set of responsibilities. But it's another thing to be generally dissatisfied across the board. Unfortunately, that's where most workers are.
When asked about various aspects of workplace life, from compensation to time off to benefits to job security, most workers were happier three decades ago than they are today. And given what we know about some of these factors, that's not all too surprising.
The median income in the U.S. is roughly $56,000 a year, and while that may be enough to get by in some parts of the country, in other areas, it's not even close. Then there's vacation. While some companies are fairly generous with their policies, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the average American worker gets only 10 days of paid time off per year. Worse yet, almost 25% of U.S. employees get no paid vacation time at all. And while most workers are offered a 401(k) through their jobs to help with retirement savings, more than 40% don't have access to an employer-sponsored plan. It's no wonder, then, that so many workers consider themselves unhappy on the whole.
Now there is a bit of positive news: Despite the aforementioned complaints, most employees have some good things to say about their jobs. In fact, 59% claim they're interested in what they do, while just over 60% say they like the people they work with. Still, it's hard to overlook the fact that the bulk of workers are ultimately displeased with at least one major aspect of their employment situation.
Time to make a move?
If you're among the countless Americans who identify as unhappy at work, it's time to change things up rather than subject yourself to many more years of misery. You can start by making a list of the things you don't like about your current job, and ranking them from most to least significant. This will help guide your job search so you can find a role that's more likely to make you happy.
Imagine you're unhappy with not only your compensation but the actual work you're doing. If earning an inadequate salary is your single greatest point of dissatisfaction, then you should focus on finding a role with a considerably higher base. On the other hand, if you're bored sick of punching numbers into a database day in and day out, you may want to find a more creative role and focus on salary second.
Of course, if you have a compelling reason to stay at your current company (say, to vest in a 401(k) or collect some sort of bonus), then it pays to talk to your employer about why you're unhappy and see if anything can be done to address it. While you may not score an instant raise or get an extra week of vacation out of nowhere, your manager might be willing to let you dabble in new things to address the boredom factor.
Whether you're unhappy on the job due to money, stress, or any other reason, don't just resign yourself to a lifetime of work-related gloom. Instead, dust off that resume, comb through those job listings, and get ready to network like crazy. You deserve to be happy at work, so if you're stuck in a lousy job situation, now's the time to start planning your much-needed escape.