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Lead Your Team Managing

What's Making Your Employees Unhappy (And What You Can Do About It)

What's Making Your Employees Unhappy (And What You Can Do About It)
Credit: Lasse Designen/Shutterstock

There is a good chance you have a staff of unhappy employees, new research finds.

American employees are generally dissatisfied with their employers, rating their happiness a 65 on a scale of 0-100, according to a study from the Answers Corporation, the owner and operator of the online site Answers.com and provider of cloud-based customer service solutions. On this scale, a score of 80 or higher means that a worker is happy with how the company is meeting, or exceeding, the employee's expectations.

A number of factors, including annoying co-workers, contribute to the disgruntled feelings of today's employees. More than half of those surveyed work with someone who really irritates them, and it's affecting their happiness. Employees who work with an annoying peer scored their overall satisfaction a 58, compared to a score of 72 for those who get along with all of their co-workers.

A feeling that their employers don't understand them also contributes to employee unhappiness. Nearly half of those surveyed said their organization doesn't have a clear grasp on what the worker's career goals are.

Companies that want to improve employee satisfaction need to focus on more than just how they can give workers higher salaries or bonuses. The study revealed that leaders need to provide their staff with a long-term vision to rally around, and that this is just as important as money for employee happiness. [Want to Make Employees Happy? Make Their Jobs More Interesting ]

Overall, those surveyed said leadership, compensation and improving relationships with supervisors are the top three areas organizations should improve.

Eric Feinberg, senior director of product strategy for Answers cloud services, said employers don't understand their employees, and companies are not doing nearly enough to rectify the situation.

"Improving employee satisfaction leads to desirable employee behaviors, such as recommending the company to others, supporting its products and satisfying its customers," Feinberg said in a statement. "Considering the high cost of replacing employees — anywhere from a fifth to 200 percent of the person's salary — a true commitment to measuring and improving the employee experience should be an operational imperative for American employers."

The research also shows millennials, who many view as demanding, job-hopping employees, could be getting a bad rap. Members of this age group are the most satisfied and most engaged of all the generations. Additionally, they are among the most likely to stay at a company, second only to those over the age of 55.

The study was based on the analysis of the work experience of 4,115 U.S. employees. The study used the structural equation model, which draws on research from industrial organization, human resources management and other fields. It is a cause-and-effect methodology designed to find the factors that affect employee satisfaction, and how those factors affect employee engagement and behavior.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.