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News Analysis: America’s Dirty Secret—We’re Miserable at Work

A recent New York Times magazine article, “America’s Professional Elite: Wealthy, Successful and Miserable,” suggests that even the nation’s most successful people share a general dissatisfaction with their work—yet another byproduct of the failure of enough CEOs to lead a strategic and systematic approach to engaging all stakeholders. The misery at work belies the adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses. In fact, people leave companies led by CEOs who fail to understand the importance of culture and who allow bad bosses and a sense of meaningless to thrive. 
A New York Times feature article by Charles Duhigg about the author’s classmates from Harvard Business School will sound familiar to most Americans: Many of them, it turns out, are among the 85% of people worldwide that said they hate their work in a 2017 Gallup survey. A 2013 Gallup study similarly found that only 13% of people like to go to work. 
A web survey 3,600 people worldwide published in 2013 in Medical Daily found that 47% have “really bad” Sunday night blues, with another 31% reporting bad or slightly bad blues. Only 22% reported feeling no blues at all. Apparently, Sunday night blues are the worst in the U.S., “where 59% of respondents said they dreaded going back to work. Only 19% of respondents said they were happy on Sunday nights.”  
Perhaps this is one reason why another Gallup survey found that general “satisfaction with America” has fallen to a historic low of only 28%, despite times of almost historic prosperity. Many factors contribute to dissatisfaction—one’s finances; personal family or social situation; health; lack of vacation time; political views—but with most Americans spending nearly 40% of their waking hours each weekday at jobs most dislike, the failure to engage takes not only a toll on productivity and quality, but on our very life spirit. It’s a miracle that Americans are not up in arms. 
Ironically, the New York Times article cataloging the dissatisfaction of the elite would sound familiar to almost any American of working age. Duhigg writes: “Even among my most sanguine classmates, there was a lingering sense of professional disappointment. They talked about missed promotions, disaffected children and billable hours in divorce court. They complained about jobs that were unfulfilling, tedious or just plain bad.” He quotes one colleague: “I feel like I’m wasting my life…My work feels totally meaningless.” His colleagues spoke of ruthless competition, politics and connivery, oppressive hours, an always-on culture, and “an underlying sense that their work isn’t worth the grueling effort they’re putting into it.”
The author reaches a revelation that is old news to ESM readers: “This wave of dissatisfaction is especially perverse because corporations now have access to decades of scientific research about how to make jobs better.” The author quotes Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, on the importance of basic financial security, a sense of autonomy and community, and feeling that one’s labors have a sense of purpose. Duhigg quotes Barry Schwartz, a visiting professor of management at the University of California at Berkeley: “You can be a salesperson or a toll collector, but if you see your goal as solving people’s problems, then each day presents 100 opportunities to improve someone’s life, and your satisfaction increases dramatically.” He adds: “We want to feel that we’re making the world better, even it’s a small matter as helping a shopper find the right product at the grocer story.” 
U.S. businesses invest at least $100 billion a year at engagement surveys, leadership coaching, motivational speakers, assessment and surveys, communications and learning, diversity, innovation, rewards and recognition, loyalty, benefits, etc. Clearly something is not working. What’s needed are CEO’s committed to a strategic and systematic process for engaging all stakeholders consistent with the logical framework in ISO Annex SL standards, ISO 10018 Quality People Management standards, nine Human Resources standards, and the new ISO 30414 Human Capital Disclosure guidelines. 

Master the Principles of Enterprise Engagement to Achieve Organizational Goals and Enhance Your Career
  • Profit from a new systematic approach to engagement to enhance your organization’s brand equity; increase sales, productivity, quality, innovation, and safety, and reduce risks.
  • Achieve ISO 10018 Quality People Management Certification to demonstrate your organization’s strategic commitment to people to your customers, employees, distribution partners, vendors, communities, investors, and regulators.
Live Education: Enterprise Engagement in Action Conference at Engagement World, April 3, 2019, in San Francisco, in conjunction with the Selling Power Sales 3.0 Conference. Learn about the economics, framework, and implementation process for an ISO certifiable approach to achieving organizational objectives by strategically fostering the proactive involvement of all stakeholders. Learn more and register now.   
Enterprise Engagement The Roadmap 5th Edition
In Print: Enterprise Engagement: The Roadmap 5th Edition
The first and most comprehensive book on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 quality people management standards. 
Online: The Enterprise Engagement Academy at, providing the only formal training on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 quality people management standards. Provides preparation for professionals to support organizations seeking ISO 10018 employer or solution provider certification, as well as elective courses on Trade Show Engagement, Rewards and Recognition, Government, and other topics. 
Plus: 10-minute short course: click here for a 10-minute introduction to Enterprise Engagement and ISO standards on
Services: The International Center for Enterprise Engagement at, offering: ISO 10018 certification for employers, solution providers, and Enterprise Engagement technology platforms; Human Resources and Human Capital audits for organizations seeking to benchmark their practices and related Advisory services for the hospitality field.
The Engagement Agency at, offering: complete support services for employers, solution providers, and technology firms seeking to profit from formal engagement practices for themselves or their clients, including Brand and Capability audits for solution providers to make sure their products and services are up to date.
C-Suite Advisory Service—Education of boards, investors, and C-suite executives on the economics, framework, and implementation processes of Enterprise Engagement. 
Speakers Bureau—Select the right speaker on any aspect of engagement for your next event.
Mergers and Acquisitions. The Engagement Agency’s Mergers and Acquisition group is aware of multiple companies seeking to purchase firms in the engagement field. Contact Michael Mazer in confidence if your company is potentially for sale at 303-320-3777. 
Enterprise Engagement Benchmark Tools: The Enterprise Engagement Alliance offers three tools to help organizations profit from Engagement. Click here to access the tools.
• ROI of Engagement Calculator. Use this tool to determine the potential return-on-investment of an engagement strategy. 
• EE Benchmark Indicator. Confidentially benchmark your organization’s Enterprise Engagement practices against organizations and best practices. 
• Compare Your Company’s Level of Engagement. Quickly compare your organization’s level of engagement to those of others based on the same criteria as the EEA’s Engaged Company Stock Index.
• Gauge Your Personal Level of Engagement. This survey, donated by Horsepower, enables individuals to gauge their own personal levels of engagement.
For more information, contact Bruce Bolger at, 914-591-7600, ext. 230.
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