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As Job Dissatisfaction Heats Up, Don't Let Your Company Lose The Game Of Musical Chairs

If the surveys are correct, 2012 could go down in history as the year of corporate musical chairs. The results of recent studies conducted by Gallup, Mercer, and Right Management are alarming. Despite—or perhaps because of—the economic turmoil, discontent among workers remains high.

Right Management found that workers continue to feel trapped in their jobs and want to find new employment elsewhere. They polled more than a 1,000 employees in North America and found 84% of respondents are planning to look for a new position in 2012. According to Mercer’s recent What’s Working global survey of nearly 30,000 people in 17 countries, between 28% and 56% of workers are seriously considering leaving their jobs, with younger workers even more likely to be considering a move.

The Mercer study, echoing several Gallup polls in the past, shows that workers are increasingly less committed to their employers, which has only gotten worse during the recession. When asked what factors motivate employees to stay, the Mercer study showed that "being treated with respect," and "work-life" balance led the list, with base pay and benefits listed lower.

Employees are speaking (or in many cases shouting), yet employers continue to operate as if everything is fine on the home front. If this were really the case, then exceptional customer service would be the rule, rather than the exception. There is no way you can deliver high levels of customer service with a workforce that has one foot out the door. Just look around. When is the last time you had a great experience with a service provider? Can’t remember? Neither can I.

There is still time to prevent your talent from walking out the door, but this will require a sharp turn in your organization. To do so, you must expunge the following ideas from your corporate culture:

We can’t afford to pay people what they are worth. Actually, you can’t afford not to pay people what they are worth. As the economy shifts, those who haven’t had pay raises in years will find employers who will compensate them for the value they bring to the organization. You can pay your employees a little bit more or you can pay the headhunter, who will be charging you 30% of the first year’s annual salary (times the number of employees you will now be replacing), the money you say you don’t have. Let’s hope the headhunter can deliver candidates who are fully trained in your systems, know exactly what your customers desire, and are willing to work for the same amount as those you’ve just handed over to your competitors.

Everyone is replaceable. The belief is that jobs are simple to fill in this market. Just don’t tell that to the many employers struggling to find the talent they need. Professionals with highly specialized skills are in short supply—particularly in the information technology and finance fields. Skilled workers are almost impossible to find. Professional firms are scouring their alumni networks to fill positions vacated by those who have gone to work for clients.

What do you think might happen if you began to treat your people as if they were irreplaceable? Would they feel more valued? Would they be more committed to your organization? Would you be better able to grow your business knowing you had people who could handle the new business you brought in?

Workers should be grateful they have a job. Yes, they should be. But they don’t need you reminding them. What if instead, you took the position you were grateful to have these people working for you? This small shift in thinking can create a huge change in your culture. Workers would feel appreciated and you would feel proud knowing you were associated with the best in the business.

The time to make changes in your organization is now. Wait much longer and you may be the one left without a chair.

© 2011 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions ( and author of the highly acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.

[Image: Flickr user davidmaddison]

Add New Comment


  • Roberta Matuson


    I believe many executives are confused when people say they are happy to have a job. They fail to ask the next question which is,  "Are you happy in this job?"


  • David Kaiser, PhD

    The particular danger is that it's usually the best employees who are most likely to leave, they have the most initiative and are the most marketable and least willing to settle. Companies that don't get this are likely to find themselves saddled with mediocrity. 

    Personally, I think any company that believes that employees should be grateful to have jobs, and use this as an excuse for low wages or lack of respect, deserves the high turnover it will probably get once the economy picks up. 

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Executive Coach & CEO

  • andy_mcf

    Timely feedback and communications play a role in employee satisfaction.  Oftentimes, we neglect the most important players in the experience… our team.  The only way to make the vision of delivering world-class experiences a reality is to communicate expectations and make adjustments.

  • Nikola Milojkovic

    Kako dani brzo prolaze,uspomene meni dolaze,u mom srcu uvek ostace,jedna Sanja,jedno prolece,u kafani sedim do zore,ali casa mi ne pomaze,u mom srcu uvek ostace,jedna Sanja,jedno prolece.Secas li se Sanja,da li mozes da zaboravis,pozelis li Sanja,bar po nekad da me zagrlis,secas li sa Sanja,da li mozes da zaboravis,pozelis li Sanja bar po nekad da me poljubis<33

  • Cedricj

    How about the idea "Let's save money by cutting the budget on training and development" to make employees run for the revolving door?
    Inspiring leaders to inspire others

  • Doug Brockway

    At the root of all this disregard for talent is the relentless push for increased quarterly shareholder value. Profits rule. What often gets lost in this relentless and shortsighted push is any deep care or concern for the folks who make it happen. However, people must be placed before profit. This is what the stats are telling us. Your article helps illustrate this further.  Happy and engaged employees are more loyal, creative and more productive.  Organizations that foster environments where people thrive and truly want to come to work are geared to win over the longterm. It's pretty simply really.

  • atimoshenko

    Skilled workers are almost impossible to find.

    "Skilled" by proven background, not "skilled" by actual capability. There is no shortage of capability. There is a difficulty in identifying and matching that capability with needs (hence the lamentable preference for looking for people who have already been doing what you want them to do), but that difficulty is an entirely separate question.