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Getting a Sense of Purpose Along With Their Paycheck

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American workers have seldom displayed much inclination toward class warfare. Why won't the nation's wage slaves arise and cast off the chains imposed on them by their capitalist bosses? Perhaps because they're largely satisfied with their jobs. Some recent surveys add to the literature of worker contentment. In one of them, conducted by Xylo Inc., 92 percent of employed adults said they "find meaning and purpose in their work." This sentiment was especially widespread among highly educated workers, whopresumably tend to have the fancier jobs. Ninety-nine percent of respondents with post-graduate degrees said they find their work meaningful. But this same feeling was shared by an overwhelming majority(84 percent) of the respondents who got no farther than high school. Meanwhile, a Harris Poll on the matter found 94 percent of employed adults saying they're satisfied with their jobs, including 58 percent who term themselves very satisfied. Those numbers represent an uptick from a 1999 survey in which 91 percent of respondents claimed to be satisfied and 54 percent said they were very satisfied. At a time when many people are happy just to have a job, contentment comes a little easier. Remember the disagreeable experience of seeing colleagues run off to take jobs whose lavish stock options would make them filthy rich? We're now mostly spared such incitements to restlessness. In the Harris survey, just 24 percent of workers said it's very likely they'd choose to change jobs in the next five years, down from 32 percent in the 1999 poll. Don't get the impression, though, that widespread contentment with one's job is principally a consequence of high unemployment rates. In the 2001 Randstad North America Employment Review published early last spring—i.e., when jobless rates were still near their record lows—even Gen Xers displayed an aversion to job-hopping. Among respondents age 21-35, 77 percent said "success is finding a company where you want to work for a long time." Of course, managers can always foment discontent among the proletarians if they try hard enough—for instance, by saying one thing while doing quite another. In a Maritz Research poll fielded earlier this year, 22 percent of American workers said "their company's senior managers do not act in a manner consistent with their words." And of this distrustful 22 percent, a mere 5 percent said they're satisfied with their jobs. Just one in four of them would strongly recommend the company to potential customers. On the happier side of the scale, 21 percent "strongly agreed" that "senior management's actions are consistent with their words," and 73 percent of these respondents said they're satisfied with their jobs. Moreover, 90 percent of them would recommend the company's products and services to customers.