Workers in the Recession: Stress, Boredom and Too Little Pay

Sure, the recession has been hard on the unemployed. But what about workers who still have jobs? Turns out, they are depressed, too. They are exhausted, underpaid and treated badly by their bosses, but have been afraid to speak up. And now they are looking to move on to new jobs.

"Many workers feel overworked, underappreciated and underpaid," says Brett Good, district president for southern California at Robert Half International, a recruiting firm. "Between 40 and 52% are saying that if the market improved, I'd consider making a job change."

According to a study by the firm, 37% of professionals who were polled said they felt they were not being fairly compensated for taking on a greater workload during the recession. "People are working harder and more productively and they have almost reached a boiling point," Good says.

A Heavy Load

Michael Erwin, a senior career adviser at the jobs website, says that many employers had no choice but to pile on the workload.

"Employers did what they had to do to keep the lights on in their organizations and they had to make cuts so they could keep their operations going," Erwin says. "When you look at the fact that one in five workers is dissatisfied with their work/life balance, I think this shows the stress level is much higher than in years past."

Erwin noted that when the recession first hit, employees were spooked by constantly seeing people being laid off. "People just hunkered down and did not complain if they had too much work, did not take vacation time and tried to be that model employee," he says.

But that attitude is changing rapidly. According to a survey CareerBuilder conducted in the second quarter, one fourth of employees said they were planning on leaving their jobs in the next 12 months. "I think that's a trend you will see over the next year," Erwin says.

A third of the 4,000 workers polled attributed their desire to quit their job to recession-related factors such as being overworked or resentment at seeing friends laid off. Another third felt overqualified for the position they were in and 23% said they were bored with their jobs. One other reason workers may be seeking greener pastures: 15% of employers surveyed said they had cut wages in the last year.

A Changing Job Market

However, Erwin says that employees can now sense a change in the job market. For example, the number of jobs posted on the CareerBuilder website since the beginning of the year has increased 10% each month, he says.

Robert Half's Good says that during the past 18 months, the firm would often offer jobs to candidates, only to be turned down because the candidate was afraid of losing a good paycheck. Now, however, "the same candidates are reaching out to us saying, 'let me know if something crosses your radar that I might be a good fit for.'"

Bolting your job, it turns out, seems age dependent. According to survey data Robert Half collected, 36% of workers aged 21 to 31 are planning on finding a new job, but only 30% of those aged 32 to 45 are looking for work. Of those aged 45 to 64, the so-called baby boom generation, only 24% were planning to quit. But a majority of those old timers say they are going to work past the traditional retirement age.

Erwin says most of the jobs being posted now are in revenue generating areas like sales and marketing, which were the first career categories to be hit when the recession arrived. "Companies recognize this is an opportunity to make some money, get some people in there who can really generate revenue and move the business forward," he says.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday that the number of job openings in the country had reached 3 million. Although that was only a minor increase from the previous month, it is up dramatically from the trough of 2.3 million job openings that was reached in July, 2009.

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as i was reading this , this really makes me sick of seeing these kind of actions toward work out there. because i was let go because of medical reasons in 2006. and since then when i was working i was a pretty happy person at work i had a good job out there i guess i loss my job to too many complainers in the work place. boy! i wish i had my job back i would be happier. does anyone want to donate a permanent part-time job. i know too people fill the same about this do you? i am so sick of people complaining about nothing.

September 17 2010 at 2:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

First thing we need is a real jobs program to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Second we need to reregulate everything deregulated and no foxes watching the henhouse, as under Bush, as execs are basaically crooks. Lloyds of London found 85% of corporate fraud is by managers, 50% by managers in their first year with a company (organized crime came in under 3%). Thirdly, we need to purge the US courts of NAZI judges like Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy. The American courts are so unjust and prejudiced, no pro se gets a case to trial including lawyers representing themselves (pointing out its not the ability to draft a complaint at issue) or to a reasonable settlement, their suits are unconstitutionally dismissed as are their appeals. Indeed those properly dismissed pro se filings are likely to get heard and an actual opinion issued since the appellate judges don't have to mess up the precedents as they would in affirming prima facie void dismissals. On the criminal side, the racism of our system IS the major reason blacks constitute a disproportionate % of inmates. For first time drug offenses, 65 whites are arrested for every black sent to jail: whites get programs, accelerated rehab, suspended sentences, blacks get plea bargains that include jail.

September 12 2010 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As to forced ovetime...many union contracts state as long as the work schedule is posted prior to the end of your current shift you are required to work the posted schedule ...weither it be overtime work or not...dialy unposted overtime is not mandatory in most manufacturing operations.... and you should be DAMM LUCKY to get overtime pay in this econony......"WORK AS DIRECTED AND SHUT THE "F" UP"

September 12 2010 at 6:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Actually it was Harsco, and I had another job before I quit. It didn't take long to find one at that time, might be tougher now but still possible IF you keep your skills sharp. I told the plant manager before I left " I'm just a plain ol' country boy, I believe in an honest days work for an honest days pay, the company says an honest days pay is as little as they can get by with and I accept your definition as applicable for an honest days work". In my opinion Harsco never rewarded extra effort and never let a good deed go unpunished if it came from the hourly ranks.

September 12 2010 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I,m 55 and I've seen a lot of crap from a lot of companies. I've been blue collar all my life and seen wages, adjusted for inflation, cut in half in the last thirty years. There is no reason for company loyalty since none is ever returned to the employee. My recommendation is keep your skills sharp, your resume current,and your psychological bags packed. Make damn sure the boss knows you are ready to bail if things get rough and never accept extra work without compensation. I spent 25 years with one company once and had to quit to keep from going to jail. Morons in management hired an imbecile from a different industry as a superintendent. The clown knew nothing about production procedures he only knew charts and graphs. His response to missed schedule dates was to scream and curse at the lead men in the factory. Lack of material, machinery breakdowns etc... were blamed on subordinates who had no authority to remedy the problems. After six months I quit without notice to keep from punching his lights out. Since then I've had half a dozen jobs with most paying more and some with better benefits. I found that I enjoy new challenges and meeting new people and never regretted leaving that company. Don't let your employer run and ruin your life. Keep your debt level low, your savings high , and never hesitate to bark in their faces. Demand what you earn when you know you have earned it. If it is necessary to make a sacrifice ask yourself "has this company earned this from me?". If the answer is no start sending out resumes and don't look back

September 12 2010 at 10:23 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to soalmorgan's comment

Did you work at Haworth Inc. Your story is just like mine. Keep up the good work and sharing your great advice.

September 12 2010 at 10:57 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Well I am unemployed and so are thousands others and that sucks but for them people working 70-80 hours a week and getting paid for 40 and think they are doing good they are actually hurting the unemployed this whole country is infested with employers taking advantage of job scared workers. And they are not hiring new emloyees because there are those weak minded employees out there that dont realize how thier actions denie some hard working person a job. So lets keep working 80 hours for 40 hours pay for these companies you are enabling these employers to keep the atitude that they can get away with this kind of crap!!!!!

September 12 2010 at 10:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

evryone knows this, so what can be done? STOP FORCED OVERTIME!!!!!! workers will be happy and healthy, less injured and closer to family.. workers in their 50's with diabetes,high BP ets are not able to work long hours, if their work is physically demanding.. the employers will certainly have problems of this costly suggestion, but they can be given broad tax breaks and other incentives.. that is lot better than injured workers in low morale demandinding unending unemployment,work-comp etc, etc.

September 12 2010 at 9:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I am a perfect example of this article. I am highly paid but working to the point of exhaustion and getting sick(70-80 hours per week and getting paid for 40) but it is much better than being out of work or working for $9/hour.

September 12 2010 at 9:32 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to fgt's comment

I'm glad you understand the situation. When the "meltdown" started last year, I had a good job. I did everything I could to make sure I kept that job, knowing how hard it was going to be to find another one. On December 29, 2009, my psycho supervisor decided to read everybody's e-mails (I guess she was bored). She saw where I jokingly called her a snob in an e-mail to a person outside the company and decided I didn't like her. So here I am, 8-1/2 months later still unemployed. Lesson learned.

September 12 2010 at 11:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Did the Deportations begin again?

September 12 2010 at 9:15 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Shrink the trade gap by creating a big gap in the ground off shore with cruise missles then the jobs will come back. That's my 2 c keep the change!

September 12 2010 at 9:06 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply