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Joanne B. Ciulla
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Joanne B. Ciulla

Joanne Ciulla is Professor and Coston Family Chair in Leadership and Ethics at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond, the only undergraduate degree-granting school of leadership studies in the world.

Start with gratitude

A recent Conference Board survey found that American workers have become increasingly unhappy with their jobs over the past 20 years. Today, 45% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs, compared with 61% in 1987. Among workers 25 and younger, only 35.7% said that they were satisfied.

The social contract that said "if you do your job well, you get to keep it" is long gone in most workplaces. In a buyers market for labor (one-in-ten Americans are unemployed), some employers have become lazy about designing jobs and work environments that appeal to young college graduates. Others have not figured out how treat employees with dignity and respect in this age of economic uncertainty. To be fair, employers have their own problems. Many of them are fighting to stay in business and have little to offer their overworked employees. So what can employers do when they need more from employees, and they have less to give them?

Employers and employees might both start with gratitude. I am not talking about a simple thank you. Gratitude is not easy nor does it come cheap. It is the acknowledgment of indebtedness to someone. As the philosopher Robert C. Solomon notes, gratitude requires humility because it is an admission of being vulnerable and dependent. Both employers and employees need each other and should, at a minimum, be grateful to have their businesses and jobs. People who feel gratitude tend to be happier because they celebrate what they have rather than lament what they lack.

So, employers might want to start off the year with heartfelt gratitude. This not only means that they should express their appreciation and debt to employees, but that they promise to make good on that debt when business improves.

By Joanne B. Ciulla

 |  January 6, 2010; 1:46 PM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Employees will be happy, satisfied, and fulfilled when they make decisions collectively and democratically themselves on how to organize their work, and what and how much to produce.

Posted by: employee2 | January 7, 2010 9:30 PM
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"This not only means that they should express their appreciation and debt to employees, but that they promise to make good on that debt WHEN business improves."
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Yes, and I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Appreciation and civility are good, and will be a karmic credit to the employer, but it doesn't pay the rent or the doctor; and as you say, the social contract has broken down because of national employer shortsightedness and GREED. America has lost eight million jobs since the recession began, and needs to add more than 100,000 a month to keep up with the growing population - roughly around 18 million jobs over the next five years, or say 300,000 jobs a month

What to do? Actively support a public works program, actively support single payer health care, actively support tax reform, heck - actively support repealing NAFTA or temporary protectionism.

This is a problem we need to face as a nation, and while appreciation is a good start, stronger steps need to be taken.

Posted by: shadowmagician | January 7, 2010 1:44 PM
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