Economic trends take toll on workers

On the Job


September 06, 2006|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun Reporter

A string of recent surveys and economic indicators is revealing a bleak mood among workers, even though the labor market has been improving during the past several years.

In a poll commissioned by the AFL-CIO and released last week, 55 percent of 803 registered voters said their incomes were not keeping up with inflation. Nine percent said their incomes were outpacing inflation. (The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.)

"What we're seeing now is that a lot of factors are coming together to bring home the problems that workers are facing," says Thea Lee, the union group's policy director. "Rising energy and health care costs, college costs for people who have kids, in addition to the weak performance of wages is a bad combination."

In the workplace, many employees are feeling unappreciated. According to a recent survey, 67 percent of 1,050 workers said their workload increased during the past six months, yet only half received a raise during that period. (The survey has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.)

The "Working in America: What Employees Want" survey commissioned by Kronos Inc. found that 58 percent of respondents might leave their jobs if the economy continues to improve, an increase of 12 percentage points from last year.

Yet another survey reflects the downbeat concern of some workers.

The Pew Research Center found that many workers felt more on-the-job stress and had less job security than 20 or 30 years ago. (The survey of 2,003 Americans was conducted last month and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.)

It's not all bad news, though. Bosses can make working conditions better.

The Kronos survey asked workers how their organizations can improve their satisfaction. On the wish list: better pay, respect and recognition for a job well done.

From the mailbag: The question of when and where to use electronic gadgets such as cell phones, BlackBerry devices and laptops in the workplace is striking a chord with workers.

Several readers responded with their own pet peeves and suggestions after an earlier article on technology etiquette at work.

Sharon, of Baltimore, says she turns off her cell phone at work, but some of her colleagues don't follow her lead.

"The supervisor even agreed cell phones should be banned from the office but people don't care," she writes. "You should hear the unprofessional rings during the workday that are irritating."

It should be no surprise that we're seeing and committing more "tech etiquette" faux pas. In fact, 81 percent of more than 2,300 executives say they are connected to their work via cell phones, personal digital assistants or laptops at all times, according to a survey by Korn/Ferry International, a global talent management company.

Lisa, a reader in Harrisburg, Pa., says her workplace has a "no electronic noise" rule during accountability meetings.

"This keeps us focused and keeps our meetings short," she says. "How to enforce it? When a phone rings, the entire room calls `cha-ching' and the violator puts $10 in the pizza fund."

Is your boss driving you crazy? Are you looking for another job? Send your tips, comments and questions to Please include your first name and your city.

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