T Nation

Job Stress in America


"Overworked employees are fed up: a survey finds 8 out of 10 Americans want a new job." - CNN Money


"Study: U.S. Leads In Mental Illness, Lags in Treatment"

Granted, this article is dated Dec 30, 2003, but we're obviously still in the recession period that started in Nov. 2000. I'm sure the survey would be similar, if not worse at this point given the hurricanes and legions of companies bellying up right now (Refco, GM) or the continued downsizing.

Recession Data:

I think the American worker is streched very, very thin at this point. So, I was interested in what people believe to be the cause.

I personally believe America is in a great "race to the bottom" fueled by both the US consumer's lack of economic foresight and insatiable demand for lower priced goods and services, and also by the current US political climate which seems to foster an atmosphere of corporate protectionism. I'd like to hear other people's opinions.


I agree completely and would also add that people are too afraid to take any kind of risk, even though working for someone else your whole life can be one of the worst risks one can take.

I've heard (and said) that if you don't like your job, quit. Well, I realised that's not always a possibility since there aren't many (or any) jobs to go to right away and we (many middle/lower class Americans) put ourselves into so much debt we can barely afford to take a week of unpaid vacation, let alone a couple of months to find a job while collecting unemployment.

Ask 1000 people if they believe that they're being paid what they're worth and you'll probably get 999 saying that they aren't.

Owning your own business is the way to go, but it's not taught in our public schools (at least not mine) and students aren't prepared for it.

We're conditioned to learn how to work for someone else. Schools also teach very little, if any, money management skills. It wasn't until my second year at a community college that I realy understood credit cards and interest rates.

Even the Government rewards you for owning your own business because it's all around good for the economy to have more succesful businesses, but again we have to find out on our own about any benefits or grants we may recieve from the Govt. and that's a big pile of paperwork mess.


I agree with SWR-1222D. I do not like my job but it pays the bills and funds my hobbies. The secret is to not let work get to you. Infact I do not care about anything at work I go and do my job and at the end of the day I go home and do not think about work until I go back the next day. There are so many things more important in my life than my job, I see no reason to let work get to me.

I understand that not everyone can think about it the way I do but it helps a ton.


Why do you think we are in a recession? Are you basing it on any sort of economic data or is that your opinion?

Work in the US is very stressful but nobody makes you do it. You can take a slacker job, do the minimum and basically stay employed for life.

My opinion is that people work hard to better themselves. Nobody forces you to do so. The US provides the most opportunity of any nation but doesn't provide a middle class safety net that is popular in socialist oriented countries. It provides a basic poverty level income. Anything else you have to work for. That's what causes stress.

Since capitalism has outstripped any other form of economic system, it most likely will be the only one to survive.

I own my own company and you are right about working for someone else. Your also right that you don't learn that in school. You learn how to make money and run a business by watching and observing. Become a student of success, work your ass off and hope for a little luck. If all three come together you'll make it, there is no guarantee...only an opportunity.


In spite of all rhetoric to the contrary the US worker longer and harder than virtually any other worker in the industrialized world.

I base this statement on our taking the fewest vacations and having the highest productivity.

Is it any wonder we consume more natural resources etc., we have EARNED the right to do it.

Are jobs stressful? How can they not be in a productive competitive environment?


You make your own stress at your job.

I have said this a million times over the years. It is a plain and simple fact that you have the choice to care how much your work affects you emotionally. Some people choose to involve themselves very deeply in their job, for numerous reasons... identity issues, substituting work for a meaningful home life/personal relationships, the list goes on. And usually it's not something good. When you're ninety years old, do want to look back and say "wow, I guess I worked a lot and got upset a lot."

If you have many problems with your job, maybe it's you and not the job? Maybe you're taking yourself or your coworkers a little too seriously?

Whenever I read an article about how terrible our jobs are, it just makes me laugh. Come on, we're going to whine about THIS now? Jeez, get a hobby! :slightly_smiling:


While the US worker works longer hours than most Western Europeans they are #9 out of 30 OECD members, as several Eastern Europeans and Far East countries work longer hours. As for productivity, The US is #6, after Norway, Luxemburg, Belgium, France and Ireland.

The US scores high in the combined output (hours*productivity) per worker. The reason is, most likely, that the US worker has more concerns about his financial situation (health costs, retirement and unemployment) and because of this strives to build up a buffer in case of difficulties. The Western European has more confidence in the safety net and is prepared to devote more time to leisure.


I don't think the issue of widespread job stress and burn-out is just Americans "taking their job too seriously." I think it's a symptoms of "the squeeze" from a much larger problem:



A link to a Kiyosaki article? I am surprised. Anyway did you understand what he is really trying to say?

I don?t have a problem with the government not backing currency with gold as long as they are not printing like crazy, and they have been keeping their printing in check.

Now we are not in a recession, and have not been for a while. People keep bringing up terms like that assuming we are always in one when the fact is that most often when everyone realizes we are in one it is over. The average recession lasts less then a year.

But I will say the risk of one now is high. Mostly due to the recent jump in energy prices. I am just worried Greenspan will raise interest rates more, which is the exact opposite of what he should be doing right now.

As far as job stress, people need to realize their stress is of their own making. I know a lot of people who hate their jobs, but are unwilling to do anything about it. I know many people who are stressed at their jobs only because they are actually made to work. (The humanity.) Or they didn?t get their smoke break.

The real problem is that people settle. The they blame others for their problems, never willing to look at themselves. This is no different then all the NAAFA members out there. Instead of trying to fix a problem, they are trying to change the rest of society into them. (Unfortunately they seem to be winning.)

Why are people stressed? Because mostly they are a bunch of whiners. How many people do you know who say they have trouble making ends meet, while driving the new car they bought this year to replace the outdated model they bought last year?

This is so simple to understand if you know that the reason so many people are unsatisfied at work is the same as to why so many people are fat.


Why do you think this (about Greenspan)? I'm curious why keeping inflation under control would be a bad thing?


The problem comes from lack of PROPER management in the big organizations. There is absolutely NO foresight beyond the present quarter and most people in upper management don't even know the workings of the business that they are managing.
The push to get every "number" squeezed into the current quarter creates an extremely stressful environment for employees. On top of that, companies run as lean on manpower as they possibly can in order to push operating margin. This usually results in a lot of overtime and stress.
Our European counterparts actually have regulations in place that punish companies for employees working overtime. They also don't have the constant "get it done yesterday and for less money" push that American businesses have.
The result- a less stressful environment.


I agree with this. I never understood why my former company (the one I used to work for, not realy mine) would push to get installs for our POS equipment, sooner, even if that meant taking some scheduled installs away from the next quarter.

This adds to the current quarter, but takes away from the next and doesn't cause any additional sales (unless you count the extra pressure put on our sales department to sell more).

This leads to always having a slow beggining of the quarter and a big rush at the end of every quarter.

Counting all the overtime that's getting paid out and the additional expense of our company paying for faster shipping (thousands of dollars for each system being shipped faster), you'd think that this end-of-quarter-rush is costing the company even more money.