In his article “Rethinking Work,” Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, discusses workplace satisfaction and the importance of creating jobs that feel more like meaningful vocations and less like aimless pursuits of wages (Schwartz, 2015). From beginning to end, his New York Times essay argues for both adequate compensation and purpose in the workplace. While he makes strong points about the benefits of retaining motivated and personally invested employees, his entire argument fails to consider the realities faced by the majority of workers in Developing Countries and by ignoring the impact of workplace dissatisfaction on women, who currently represent 47 percent of the U.S. workforce (U.S. Department of Labor, 2014).
Unfortunately, Schwartz’s essay is another example of academics trapped in a Western-Centric and male-centric worldview. Leading academics must study trends of dissatisfaction among women and further investigate the phenomenon in the age of globalization or face the consequences of a dissatisfied and disenfranchised global workforce.
Workplace dissatisfaction is not exclusive to Western employees. In fact, the Indian newspaper Business Standard reported that dissatisfaction level among male employees of India has increased steadily since 2009 (Business Standard, 2012). The nation of more than 1 billion regularly finds itself among the most dissatisfied workforces in the world with the daily indicating that 72 percent of men in India are not satisfied with their jobs. If you ask women in India, they are even more dissatisfied.
According to the same report, women are equally unhappy with their careers, though the roots of dissatisfaction are not the same. Women, the report found, mentioned lack of opportunities and heavy workload as culprits. Meanwhile, men were more likely to cite inadequate pay as the source of dissatisfaction. Interestingly, women earn between 30 percent and 40 percent less than men around the world (Patten, 2015).
Yet, women attempt to fight workplace dissatisfaction by attempting to proactively take control of their career trajectory (Delina & Raya, 2013). India, a developing nation that exports millions of professionals annually, is an example of the mounting employee discontent across the world.
Workplace dissatisfaction impacts women much differently than men. Growing number of female professionals seek to overcome workplace dissatisfaction by challenging the status-quo and demanding greater balance between career and home life . A 2013 study discussed the difficulties that women encounter as they attempt to advance their careers while raising families. The study found that the problem is especially dire for younger women and eases as women age.
Delina and Raya (2013) found that, “the percentage of married working women being able to strike a balance between their personal and professional seems to increase with age.” Yet, even as women find it easier to find career home life balance later in life, that balance does not guarantee satisfaction. In fact, the study found that, conflicts in work-life balance of working women affects their health causing them to “report more stress, headaches, muscle tension, weight gain and depression than their male counterparts.” Clearly, the issue of workplace dissatisfaction is negatively impacting our quality of life and putting our health at risk.
Returning to Schwartz’s (2015) essay for a moment, he states “when money is made the measure of all things, it becomes the measure of all things.” On the morning of April 24, 2013 that wisdom was in full display more than 1,100 people in Dhaka, Bangladesh lost their lives in what will be remembered as one of the worst workplace disasters in modern history, the Rana Plaza Collapse (Ali & Najar, 2015).
The poor souls who lost their lives worked in the garment industry, creating clothing for many well-known brands and retailers, ranging from high-end stores like Mango to discount chains like Wal-Mart. The day before the horrific building collapse, the building’s owners were warned of integral damage to the building and were warned to evacuate all of their employees until repairs could be done. But, the owners of the factories ignored the warnings and factory owners told workers to return to the factory or lose their jobs.
As of as June 2015, 41 people have been charged with murder as a result of the collapse. The Rana Plaza tragedy has forced the entire garment industry and the entire global supply-chain system to rethink its practice. We cannot love in a world, where as Schwartz states “… money is made the measure of all things, it becomes the measure of all things.” Rana Plaza proves there is a human cost to routinizing and depersonalizing work.
Nonetheless, disasters like this can be avoided with stricter enforcement of workplace safety standards. Sadly, for most of the planet’s workforce, happiness or satisfaction are irrelevant if something as fundamental as employee safety can’t be guaranteed.
The phenomenon known as workplace dissatisfaction is not new. It has been studied since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. For more than two centuries, employees in the industrialized nations have dealt with increasing frustration and unhappiness with their means of earning the resources to provide for their families.
With globalization and the rapid rate of industrialization in previously undeveloped nations in recent years, workplace dissatisfaction has become a global crisis. Therefore, when academics study issues that impact the workforce, an effort must be made to consider and study the plight of men and women in developing nations.
The result of ignoring these huge segment of the global workforce will be increased dissatisfaction, increased alienation for women professionals, and the potential for more catastrophic loss of life in dangerous factories. Workplace satisfaction is a privilege that must not be reserved for men or employees in the First World countries.