Increased use of business practices such as outsourcing, hiring temporary workers and reliance on project-based teams is having a detrimental effect on employees and may pose long-term problems for employers, according to research led by North Carolina State University published in Social Problems. The researchers point out that job satisfaction affects employee loyalty, workplace efficiency and quality of life.
Lead author Dr. Martha Crowley, an assistant professor of sociology said:
"We spend a great deal of our time at work, so it is an important part of our lives. If our work experience is unpleasant, it affects every aspect of our lives and ultimately it affects our ability to do our jobs."
The researchers analyzed data on working conditions, workplace relationships and behavior of professional employees over the last eighty years. They found increasing use of strategies designed to improve productivity and profits including layoffs, outsourcing jobs, replacing salaried employees with contract staff, and assigning workers to short-term teams for individual projects.
Martha Crowley commented:
"We found that, while these measures have succeeded in increasing performance pressure, there have also been unintended consequences."
The impact on employees is often negative and immediate. Professional workers may experience increased stress. Projects and co-workers may change frequently, resulting in a greater sense of chaos at work. Other consequences include increased fears about job security and a distrust of management.
The researchers identified other significant short-term and long-term implications for employers:
Professionals are less likely to help co-workers because they are primarily concerned to protect their own jobs.
Conflict between workers is detrimental to efficiency and quality and contributes to high levels of stress.
Implementation of these business practices has resulted in less loyal employees, no longer so committed to company goals and more likely to seek new opportunities as the economy recovers.
Retention will require additional incentives.
Martha Crowley concluded:
"Some firms have had a lot of success by handling their employees differently. Treating your employees well can be a way to boost your profits and productivity simultaneously without generating the unintended consequences of tactics based on fear."