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Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Improving the Workplace
EMPLOYEES FEEL LIKE SLAVES

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.

Half of all employees say management doesn't really care about them.

Part 1 - THE PROBLEM:

Merriam Webster defines a slave as, "a person who has lost control of himself and is dominated by something or someone else." No wonder many employees, shackled to their jobs with little freedom to control their day-to-day work or their career, feel like slaves.

Employees are "dominated" because what they do, when they do it, and where they do it are controlled by their employer. They are like slaves because their employer controls their time and their space.

Many employees live in a state of perpetual anxiety about losing their jobs. Indeed, our research shows that more than half of all employees feel insecure in their jobs and inhibited about expressing their views openly.

Technically, of course, employees are voluntary workers and are legally free to leave whenever they please. In practice, however, this is not the case for most people. The job market today is extremely tight and the prospect of finding a job elsewhere is daunting.

The slave analogy is also relevant because employees do not feel management cares about their well being or gives them the authority to make their own decisions. Our research shows:

  • Less than half of employees believe that management shows a genuine interest in their well being;

  • Half don't trust the information they receive from management;

  • Only 58 percent feel that they have the decision-making authority they need; and

  • Only one-third feel that they are involved in decisions that affect their day-to-day work.

Why Employees Feel the Anxiety of Slavery

Many employees live in a perpetual state of anxiety because they lack what psychologists call "the perception of control." Psychological studies have shown that the perceived control over one's destiny has more of an influence over anxiety than does the actual control.

For example, David Gershaw of Arizona Western College reports that post-traumatic anxiety in aircrews during World War II was found to be highest among the bomber crews, less among bomber pilots, and least among fighter pilots. Although fighter pilots had the highest casualty rate amount the three groups, they had the most control of their environment. Thus it was the "perceived" control and not the actual control, that determined their level of anxiety.

Part 2 - WHAT MANAGEMENT CAN DO:

  1. Management Should Provide Freedom to Employees

    Employees want management to be honest with them, respect their suggestions, and treat them as business partners rather than slaves. By providing employees with flexibility in their work scheduling, allowing them to work from home if possible, and providing them with the decision-making authority they need to do their work well, they will feel more in control and will be more productive.

  2. Employees Must Demand Their Freedom

    To break the perceived bonds of slavery, employees need to be proactive in managing their bosses and their work environment. This can include demanding flexible work arrangements and decision-making authority.

  3. Employees Must Also Continually Seek Personal Independence

    It is important that employees do not allow themselves to become totally dependent on their current employer. They need to be in constant control of their career. They should keep an eye out for their next job by maintaining a current resume, joining professional networking groups, maintaining relationships with former coworkers, and keeping in touch with search firms.

  4. Employees Must Focus on Amassing Accomplishments

    Accomplishments demonstrate how one has brought value to the organization by:

    • helping the company make money,

    • helping the company save money, or

    • developing something new or different for the organization such as a new program or procedure.

    These accomplishments are an employee's ticket to employment freedom.

It is in the self-interest of both employees and their employers that the organization emancipate its employees.

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