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When So Many Workers Hate Their Jobs, We're All Miserable

David Callahan
It's no secret that American consumers are fed up with the quality of service they get from any number of retail and restaurant establishments. Going to a fast food joint is especially unpleasant, as Demos documents in its new report, Fast Food Failure. The report notes: "Last year, customer service ratings at Burger King, Domino’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s, were all beneath the industry average, based on analysis by the customer experience research firm Temkin Group."
But  Americans also hate stepping foot in many retail outlets, with Walmart consistently ranking number one in customer dissatisfaction. Rite Aid and CVS were not far behind.
Gee, now let's see: What do places like McDonald's, Taco Bell, Walmart, and Rite Aid all have in common besides the fact that so many Americans loathe them? Oh, I know: They pay their workers crap. And one of the bad things that can happen when people get paid crap, quite apart all the usual bad things related to poverty, is that they hate their jobs. 
According to, a site where workers can review their employers, only 46 percent of Walmart's employees would recommend that a friend work at the company and the stats are similar for many other low-wage employers. Retailers like Sears and Dollar General were ranked among the worst places to work by employees. 
So, no, you're not imagining things when you walk into a McDonald's or a Walmart or a Sears and get hit with bad vibes, starting with the palpable sense that the employees really don't want to be there. They don't. 
And they don't for good reasons that extend well beyond the low pay. Another leading gripe of low-wage workers is that just-in-time scheduling practices create havoc in their lives and leave them without enough hours -- as employers bend over backwards to keep as many workers as possible in a part-time status. But things go even deeper, to basic issues of trust and respect. According to a new study by the American Psychological Association, "only about half of employed adults believe their employers are open and upfront with them, about one-third say their employers are not always honest and truthful and almost a quarter say they don’t trust their employers."
Wow. That's pretty poisonous given that the APA also reports that trust is hugely important to worker's sense of well-being and engagement. 
And there are other ways that American workers feel let down, too. The study found that:
Although the majority of workers (70%) report that they are satisfied with their jobs, less than half continue to be satisfied with the employee recognition practices (47%) and growth and development opportunities (49%) offered by their employer. 
Translation: a great many workers feel like they're not only under-appreciated, but in dead end jobs. Keep in mind that the survey was designed to be representative of the entire U.S. workforce. All these statistics would undoubtedly be far more grim if the survey was only of low-wage workers. Moreover, these complaints are on top of the more familiar complaints about low pay, scant benefits, and chaotic schedules.
Is this any way to do business? Clearly, a great many employers think so. Yet as companies like Trader Joe's and Costco show, there are better ways to do business. Paying workers more and giving them opportunities to advance can improve the bottom line.