It was recently announced that a Harvard study showed that workers' happiness at work was at an all-time low of 45%. What are the causes?

Job Security. With near-record unemployment rates, and dwindling pensions, lack of job security is certainly one factor. A generation ago, workers could expect some level of security, and 25, 30, and even 40 years with the same employer was common. Today, workers feel little security that they will be with their employee next month, let alone next year.

Lack of Social Connections. With rapid turnover, many workers do not stay with a company long enough to make strong social connections. This leads to weak organizational cultures, where people feel isolated and disconnected, and this fuels unhappiness.

Bullying and Misbehavior in the Workplace. With an ever-changing cast of workers, and lack of social connections, the incidence of bad employee behavior increases. Rather than working as a team, some people see the workplace as a competitive environment, with other employees as the competition for scarce jobs and resources. Coupled with apathy from other employees and management, bullies and others are able to get away (and get ahead) with their bad behavior.

What is the answer? Good leadership. Those in leadership positions need to keep their pulse on the levels of employee morale and dissatisfaction. They need to take steps to stop dysfunctional behaviors on the part of employees, and build a positive culture. Of course, this will get easier as the economy improves, but bad times is no excuse for bad employee behavior, or bad leadership.

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