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Tech Workers are Unhappy

Tech Workers are Unhappy

by Justin OConnellAugust 23, 2015

The world is discontent with the rat race.

Tech workers are unhappy – that’s the idea of news articles published in recent weeks. First, the New York Times published a scathing piece criticizing Amazon’s workplace. The article went viral. In the past 24 hours, a survey conducted by app maker TINYpulse revealed that individuals in the technology sector are unhappier than those in other sectors. In reality, these two anecdotes are telling us what we’ve already known.

Seattle’s TinyPulse has raised $3.5 million in funding by aiding companies like Airbnb and Brooks shoes to monitor employee sentiment by compiling weekly surveys. TINYpulse undertook the poll of 5,000 engineers, developers and IT specialists at 500 tech and non-tech clients. The start-up found that tech workers are not as happy as workers in other sectors in key categories.

Just 36% of tech workers believe there is opportunity for growth in their career compared to 50% of workers in other sectors, among whom are plumbers, architects and teachers. Here are some of the questions and answers:

“Has a supervisor recognized your work recently?”

69% for tech, 75% for non-tech workers;

“Can you recite your company’s mission and values?”

28% for tech, 43% for non tech;

“Do you have a high-quality relationship with your co-workers?”

47% for tech vs. 56% for non tech;

“Are you very happy at work?”

19% for tech vs. 22% for non tech.

This survey paints a general picture that American workers are unhappy. The last question alone underscores this. Respondents in the tech industry do not know what they need to do for upward mobility in their career or if there is any room for growth at all. This uncertainty adds to their stress levels. They work long hours. 

“There’s widespread workplace dissatisfaction in the tech space, and it’s undermining the happiness and engagement of these employees,” the survey stated.

All these low numbers point to a disconnect between the individual IT worker and their company as a whole, so it’s vital you (managers) reach out and find out what they think. Don’t let a rift open up between you and your workforce.

healthcareAs highlighted in the New York Times piece about Amazon, tech workers endure long hours. A recent study showed that people who work 55 hours or more per week have a 13 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease than those who work standard hours. I would imagine this comes with a potentially lethal dose of unhappiness. Unsatisfactory work environments have essentially been the norm in the US for its entire history. For brevity’s sake we can highlight some recent anecdotes at high profile places to work.

For many years articles have appeared on the Internet by Gawker about work environments at numerous places, such as Cisco in 2009 and, more recently, Vice. Vice replied to Gawker’s article about its workplace environment with a response about Gawker founder Nick Denton having been slapped with a class-action lawsuit by former interns for violating federal wage laws.

Gawker did however break the Amazon story more than a year ago in an article entitled, “Working at Amazing Is A Soul Crushing Experience.” There are also stories about Google’s Top Ten college educated graduates working on tech support for ad products.  


Positive thinking > depression.

It’s not only employees at America’s hippest firms who lean towards unhappiness. On the global level, according to a large scale Gallup poll, for every happy worker, there are two unhappy – or “actively disengaged” – workers.

Perhaps tech workers – and workers in general – are unhappy because they don’t want to be working at all. That’s what a recent Bloomberg article suggests.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that many American workers are opting out of full-time paid work for part time work so that they have time to run their own business on the side. In fact, six million Americans choose to work part time, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.  As Bloomberg writes:

…Many are abandoning the traditional career path their parents took and working just enough hours to pay the bills or pursue a passion: toy making, puppetry, nonprofit advocacy. Their numbers have increased 12 percent since 2007, according to the BLS, a shift with broad implications for hiring practices.


For certain, the concept of work is evolving for people. This flux creates uncertainty for everyone, employers included. Goldman Sachs is feeling the pressure – it recently capped its worker’s days at a limiting 17 hours.

“The workforce of the past was organized around company,” Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives and is studying flexible working arrangements, told Bloomberg. “The workforce of the future is organized around the worker…”

What are your thoughts on the future of the workforce? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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