Do you have the boss from hell or do you work in a fun factory? Adam Dudding uncovers what we really feel about earning a living.
Workers just want to have fun, but hard economic times, and bosses who seem to think employees should be grateful to be in employment at all, are making that a tough proposition, according to a survey probing attitudes in the New Zealand workplace.
According to respondents to The Great New Zealand Employment Survey, conducted by Clarian Human Resources and Massey University, there are many ways to suck the joy out of the workplace, from the controlling boss who calls you at 7am on a Sunday to nag about a report due on Monday, to "ditzy" colleagues who give you a hard time for being a vegetarian.
Others said they felt undervalued (38 per cent of employees) and unsupported (25 per cent), or were desperate for better communication, better pay and better leadership.
The survey also found that even though the job market is tough, a startling two-thirds of workers said they were actively hunting for a new job - roughly the same proportion as those who said they were not satisfied with their job.
But it's not all bad news for employers, who might be worrying about rebellion brewing in the office cubicles: most workers said they were interested in seeing their organisation succeed and were happy to be more involved in doing so, with only 8 per cent saying that for them a job was "just a job".
The survey asked 612 workers - employers, managers and workers at the coal-face - about the pains and joys of employment.
Most industry sectors were represented and about one in five respondents were union members.
The statistics are revealing: 30 per cent of employees said they would like to change jobs within the next six months and another 10 per cent wanted to be out of there within a year.
Almost everyone said they checked job advertisements regularly, with one in five people checking the listings every day.
More startling are some of the comments made by respondents when invited to vent their workplace quibbles.
One spoke of having a boss who phoned them at home all weekend to nag about work not due till the next day. Worse still: "I have recently been sick, and he sends his PA with me to my hospital and doctor's appointments, and she sits in on the appointment and reports back to my boss."
As if that's not enough, the boss "forced me to get rid of my pet birds, as the doctor suggested that they may be causing my health problems . . . And you wonder why I am looking for another job."
Another employee, questioned about diversity in the workplace, said there was precious little in hers. "Staff are all under 25, female, blonde, petite, ditzy. I have been chastised for being a vegetarian, for being ‘too alternative', for having my own opinions, for rejecting my employer's sexual advances. I have seen job applicants being rejected for being male, for being too old, too fat, not attractive enough, for having children, for being of a different race or culture."
According to Clarian managing director Clare Parkes, the results reveal a "disconnect" between employers and the people who spend their days working for them.
Notably, while employees said it was important that their workplace be a "fun" place to be, employers thought the secret to getting good workers was to be a "market leader" with a good brand.
Dr Jane Parker, associate professor of employment relations at Massey University, says some employers don't understand how important fun is. "A number of SME [small to medium enterprise] employers see it as a triviality, a bolt-on, a burden."
And that, says Parker, is a mistake, because fun needn't cost much and the absence of it will affect a business's bottom line.
"If you're relaxed and enjoying yourself, you're less inhibited and more creative and productive."
But haven't those SMEs got a point? Is it really up to workplaces to keep us entertained? Isn't it enough that they pay our bills?
Times have changed, says Parker. "Work isn't simply something you do to get from A to B.
"People's expectations have risen of what work's about and what they can derive from it.
"You're living longer. You want to make sure it's not hell on earth for 40 to 50 years."
Entrepreneur Tony Falkenstein, founder of chilled water company Just Water, says there are plenty of ways to make a workplace fun.
If it's hot, says Falkenstein, he'll sometimes pop up the road and buy 100 icecreams on a stick, and deliver them to all his staff.
"Fun is cheap," he says, and it's the small things that count.
His company lays on subsidised staff massages, there's an outdoor area and couches to relax on, there's free fruit and there's internet available for private use.
There are monthly staff drinks and awards are handed out based on nominations by staff.
Falkenstein says new employees are told "we're in business for fun and profit - and by that we mean that we want you to enjoy your time here, as you are spending more time here than with your family.
"However, we need to make a profit, so we expect you to work diligently while you are here."
There's another reason, says Parkes, for employers to keep employees happy.
The fact is that even in these tough economic times, there are other jobs out there, especially for high performers, and if the survey is right, and one-third of employees are actively looking to move to another job, "you can't be be complacent - that's a lot of people to lose".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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