Unhappy Civil Engineering Employees

Over the past several years, civil engineering employers were faced with dwindling backlogs, staff layoffs, benefit plan cuts and reductions in job fees. This year, those employers are now confronted with a “new” issue: unhappy staff.

The Charlotte Observer ran an AP article in January of this year. It cited study statistical findings:

…only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work. That was the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board research group in more than 22 years of studying the issue.

In 2008, 49 percent reported satisfaction with their jobs.

The drop in workers’ happiness can be partly blamed on the worst recession since the 1930s, which made it difficult for some people to find challenging and suitable jobs.

The study suggests that even those fortunate enough to be employed are unhappy with their jobs. Employees under the age of 25 were the most unhappy, while those in the 25-34 age range were the most satisfied in their jobs. There were no stats for those in the over 34 age range.

Over the past 3 years I have spoken with numerous civil engineering employees who are unhappy with their employers. They report dissatisfaction with cuts in career opportunities, training, benefits and lack of team work. They resist looking for a job that may be more exciting and challenging.  They don’t want to be “last person hired, first person to go.” These employees would rather have a job and be unfulfilled, then risk being unemployed.

This sentiment is troublesome for employers. Unhappy employees are not only less productive, but studies show they are less creative and are poor performers. Their dissatisfaction can become like an epidemic infecting those around them. These staff often exhibit unethical behaviors and lose loyalty to the company. If managers don’t recognize destructive behaviors, then they will find themselves with projects that are overdue and over budget.

Employers must offer management training as well as other employee development programs. In the long run, these programs will be more cost effective then repairing the destruction of ongoing low employee morale.

For those unhappy civil engineering employees, last July’s blog: Civil Engineering Jobs – Will Any Job Do? discussed the importance of trying to improve your current situation. You need to take a shared responsibility for making your job or environment better just as your employer needs to step up!

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and

Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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