Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

No Job is Better Than a Bad Job

June 20th, 2011 | Bob Rosner

Image: Bob RosnerA study out of Australia found that people in poor quality jobs (those with high demands, low control over decision making, high job insecurity and an effort-reward imbalance) had more adverse effects on mental health than being unemployed.

Yep, a crappy job can be harder than no job at all. Holy Fosters.

“The researchers analyzed seven years of data from more than 7,000 respondents of an Australian labor survey for their Occupational and Environmental Medicine study in which they wrote: As hypothesized, we found that those respondents who were unemployed had significantly poorer mental health than those who were employed. However, the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or more often superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality. The current results therefore suggest that employment strategies seeking to promote positive outcomes for unemployed individuals need to also take account of job design and workplace policy.”

Okay, some of you will take the gratuitous Fosters reference and the Australian sample for the study and blow this off. But you’ll do this to your own detriment.

I believe that this part of “down under” applies perfectly to “up and over” (or whatever words you choose to describe the opposite of “down under”).

Leaving out one important fact, a crummy job allows you to pay your bills in a way that no job usually doesn’t, I’m still reticent to toss this finding into the round file.

I’m not tossing it for one main reason, there is a major belief out there that it is always better to look for a job when you have a job. Because you’ve got both the economic and emotional security to come across better in an interview.

But this finding does cast a shadow on that concept. Because a crummy job can actually deplete your energy to the point that you can’t get hired.

I’m not sure that I’d ever suggest to someone to leave their job to increase the chances they’ll get a new one. But it does suggest that everyone who is unemployed should realize that there are certain advantages that go with the turf. And lord knows, it’s important for anyone who doesn’t have a job to grab every advantage that they can.

Thankfully the researchers didn’t limit their findings to just out of work people. They added a comment directed at employers too. Perhaps employers could be persuaded to be more mindful of the mental health of their workers — happier employees are a benefit to their employers. “The erosion of work conditions,” the researchers noted, “may incur a health cost, which over the longer term will be both economically and socially counterproductive.”

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winningworkplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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