American workers hate their jobs so much that nearly half of them wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy

Photo of an unhappy and stressed-out businesswoman
Forty-five percent of American workers wouldn’t wish their job on their worst enemy.

If the opposite of hate is indifference, suffice it to say that most workers in the U.S. aren’t quite indifferent toward their employers.

In a global study of 2,200 employees, 600 C-suite leaders, and 600 HR executives, the Workforce Institute at HR software firm UKG found that 38% of workers said they wouldn’t wish their job on their worst enemy—that figure jumped to 45% among U.S. workers.

And nearly half (46%) of all workers surveyed—including nearly a third (29%) of C-suite execs—wouldn’t recommend their company or profession to their children or any young person they care about. While employees, HR leaders, and C-suite leaders alike all said they wanted financial security for their kids, they all agreed they’d urge their children to pursue work that gives them the chance to care for and spend time with family, is personally meaningful and makes them fulfilled, and ensures a successful career path.  

If they could go back in time, more than half (53%) of global employees would choose a completely different profession, and 40% said they wish someone had warned them not to take their current job. Nearly two-thirds of employees said they’d switch jobs “right now” if they could, and nearly half don’t even want to work anymore at all. Too bad it’s become a lot harder than expected for workers to find a new role. 

Workers’ dominant feeling toward work is that it’s a transaction. More than three in five workers admit they go to work to collect a paycheck, clock out, and go home. Just 11% of workers feel their job is their “calling.”

Work has never been less exciting

It may not be shocking that workers feel apathetic, if not openly angry, about the work that they’re doing. Since the pandemic, workers have been reevaluating their jobs and how they fit into their lives, and have emerged with a renewed sense of seriousness about their work-life balance and higher expectations about what their job should provide them.

“People are disheartened because work is failing to meet their expectations, and there has been a shift in how people view the role of work in their lives,” Chris Mullen, Ph.D., executive director of the Workforce Institute at UKG, wrote in the study. 

While workers care most about livable income, personal fulfillment, and a respectful relationship with their superiors, small things companies can do to ease workers’ day-to-day burdens can go an especially long way. 

Some companies, sensing dwindling employee loyalty amid the Great Resignation, have taken matters into their own hands, offering exceedingly luxe perks, like personal assistants and on-site laundry service.

Perhaps those nice-to-haves won’t make otherwise unhappy employees decide to stick around—or recommend their job to someone they care about. But in a volatile job market and looming recession, any expense focused on retention is money and time well spent. 

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