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More Americans Say Their Jobs Are Meaningless

It seems working for a living is not as important as it used to be.

Is your employment fulfilling? Do you feel like you are contributing to society with your work? If you answered no, you’re not alone. A recent Gallup poll shows that employee engagement with jobs in the United States has dropped to its lowest level in more than a decade. What is causing this downward trend, and can it be reversed?

Americans Are Detaching From Their Jobs

A Gallup poll from February reported only 30% of American workers are fully engaged with their jobs. “The drop in these employee engagement elements was particularly acute in remote, hybrid and younger workers.”  In a 2021 YouGov poll of more than 9,000 employed individuals, 55% felt their job was meaningful, while one in five said their jobs were meaningless.

How important is job satisfaction? No line of work is unnecessary; someone, somewhere wants the services or products being produced. Whether it’s working on an assembly line or as a doctor, the work is necessary to get the desired outcomes.

Job satisfaction didn’t seem to matter a hundred years ago. It was a means to an end, a way to put food on the table and provide clothes and a roof over head. Today, that sentiment has changed. A survey conducted by Great Place to Work in 2022 found that “millennials and women were three times as likely to stay at a job they considered ‘more than just a job.’” Increasing numbers of people, especially Gen Z folks, are more likely to leave jobs that they don’t find meaningful.

No longer is it a top priority to work, no matter the industry. In today’s society, which is focused on instant gratification, where reading beyond the headlines requires too much time, US workers are putting more emotion into their jobs. If the work is not meaningful and does not provide them with a sense of accomplishment or they feel it does not contribute to society, then they are either dissatisfied with work or look for something else.

In 2022, we saw the “quiet quitters” trend take off, in which younger employees were quitting, leaving the job without notice. A new trend has emerged in Gen Z: NEETS – not in employment, education, or training – which is “creating record levels of youth unemployment around the world,” Newsweek wrote. The International Labour Organization claims that, worldwide, about one-fifth of people, ages 15 through 24, were NEETs in 2023. In Spain last year, more than 500,000 15-24-year-olds were neither studying nor working, and in the UK, nearly three million are classified as economically inactive.

McKinsey & Company summed it up nicely, saying:

“It’s the quitting trend that just won’t quit. People are switching jobs and industries, moving from traditional to nontraditional roles, retiring early, or starting their own businesses. They are taking a time-out to tend to their personal lives or embarking on sabbaticals. The Great Attrition has become the Great Renegotiation.”

Some occupations provide more satisfaction than others. In the YouGov survey, workers in the fields of social assistance, healthcare, or education found their jobs more meaningful than those in sales, communication, real estate, and media.

To get a good job, a person needs to go to college and get a degree or attend trade school. Or so was the belief a couple decades ago. Now, however, colleges are experiencing dropouts and lower enrollments. Graduates complain they cannot find a decent job to pay their bills, not to mention their student debt. There are the NEETs who do not go to school, nor do they work. And then there are those who refuse jobs because they find them meaningless. If this trend continues, how will it affect employers and the economy? Who will determine which occupations are worthwhile?

Read More From Kelli Ballard

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