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If Everyone Hates Their Job, Why Do We Work So Much?

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Here’s a workplace productivity paradox: lots of people aren’t really engaged in their work, yet we’re working more than ever. What’s going on?

Of the hundreds of millions of American workers, many don’t like work. This isn’t exactly news, but here’s one perspective from one writer:

I really love my job but it turns out I’m in the minority. According to a Gallup survey only 30% of the 100 million Americans with a full-time job are “actively engaged” at the workplace. Half the workforce is “not engaged,” and the remaining 20% are “actively disengaged,” meaning they straight up hate their job and, “roam the halls spreading discontent.”

Now, contrast this with what ABC News has to say:

Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world.

More than the English, more than the French, way more than the Germans or Norwegians. Even, recently, more than the Japanese.

And Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later, too.

That much most people agree on. What’s harder to pin down is exactly how much Americans are working. It may be more than our industrialized competitors, but is it more than we have ever worked before?

The short answer, according to the government, is that it is only slightly more and not so much that most people should really notice.

Workplace Productivity: Angry at Work

© Flickr user anarchivist

These two facts don’t make sense by themselves. They seem even crazier when combined together. If people aren’t engaged in their work, why do they work all the time? Or to reverse it, If we work so many hours, why are most of us not actually engaged in our work?

This is a workplace productivity paradox. What it really shows, however, is that we have a broken perspective on work.

Workplace Productivity: Broken Point of View

© Flickr user DaveOnFlickr

Instead of thinking about workplace productivity as spending more time doing things we don’t like, we should think of productivity as being about focusing on developing a process that produces results in a culture built on respect and accountability.

Hating your job and working endless hours is not a recipe for improved workplace productivity. If you want to get more done, figure out what actually matters for customers and other stakeholders, and set your sights on freedom instead of on control.

Life is too short to work any other way.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
@LaceyEverett @thenerdherd @naptownbri @indystar Well, when the original source doesn’t answer the questions, people start to speculate. - 3 weeks ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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