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Surveys: Workers skeptical, less trusting of management

September 1, 1997

They like their jobs and even their office-mates. But oh, those bosses.

Perhaps showing the scars from a decade of downsizing, employees say they trust co-workers more than their bosses and feel their companies don’t listen to them, according to two surveys released in time for Labor Day.

``People are satisfied at work, but have mixed feelings about top management,″ said Sigal Barsade, assistant professor at the Yale School of Management.

``This may be because of recent downsizing, restructuring or feelings of inequity,″ said Barsade, co-author of one of the studies, a survey of 1,000 workers released Monday by The Marlin Company, a developer of workplace communication products. ``People have been hurt.″

Little more than half of the employees would recommend their company as a good place to work, according to the second survey in which 9,100 peopled were questioned by consultants Watson Wyatt

While 61 percent of workers are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, only 32 percent feel management makes good and timely decisions, according to the Watson Wyatt survey, which involved workers at all job levels. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Moreover, only 35 percent of workers characterize the level of trust between senior management and employees as favorable, and only 36 percent said their companies actively sought workers’ opinions.

Just 38 percent said the information needed to accomplish their work is widely shared.

``Workers want to succeed, but sometimes don’t know how,″ said George Bailey, a director at Watson Wyatt. ``And many companies aren’t helping them to figure it out.″

That’s especially true for those who aren’t in management, said Shirley Klug, who manages a convenience store owned by Houston-based E-Z Serve Corp.

She said that while she was happy with the company, she felt upper management should do more for lower-level workers, who often quit after a short time.

``They don’t do near-enough for the employees,″ she said.

Asked how they feel at work, 23 percent of those surveyed by Gallup for The Marlin Co. said they were extremely satisfied, 40 percent said they were quite satisfied and 26 percent were somewhat satisfied.

A majority _ 64 percent _ said they were very loyal to their company. Yet that may be slipping. While 77 percent of those 50 and older felt very loyal, just 57 percent of those ages 18 to 34 felt such a bond.

Researchers also found greater skepticism and more anger in the workplace than in the past.

``Workers trust senior management less than they perceive senior management trusts them,″ said Batia Wiesenfeld, a co-author of the survey and a professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University.

While 51 percent of workers said last year they weren’t angry at all at work, that figure dropped to 40 percent this year.

Another 40 percent this year were a little angry, while 23 percent were somewhat to extremely mad, according to the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Perhaps their fatigue isn’t helping. While 60 percent of workers said they got six to seven hours a night of sleep, nearly the same number said they should be getting seven to eight hours.

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