2010 Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey: Challenging Work But Out of Balance

Did you take more or less than a 6 percent pay cut? Our annual report uncovers across-the-board reductions.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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"Manager is a micro-manager and shows no appreciation for what you do. Work load is not fairly distributed and poor performers are not held accountable in other areas," said an engineer in the Southwest.

"Insufficient compensation. Poor corporate decisions from upper management. My boss doesn't know what the hell is going on and I have to explain EVERYTHING to him," laments a 30-39-year-old man in R&D at a Great Lakes processor. "The culture has become CYA [cover your … ummm … behind] and finger-pointing."

"My boss is too ironic [we're not sure what that means]. It's an obligation to work from Monday to Sunday without extra time pay," complained a 40-49-year-old female operator in a dairy plant.

Hours per weekBut some are not just bitching: They have insight into what's wrong and they worry for the future of their companies.

"There is no process discipline within our business units. The global supply chain lacks a spirit of collaboration," says a 40-49-year-old product developer, who is making over $200,000.

"There's instability, change of ownership, change in upper management, high employee turnover, unclear sense of where the company is headed" – that litany from a 30-39-year-old Canadian in plant operations at a fruit & vegetable processor. He's only making $36,000-50,000.

Another plant operations guy, at a Middle Atlantic bakery, adds: "Upper management has no idea of what it takes to keep a plant running 24/7. They do not understand that 50-year-old equipment needs a little TLC once in a while. Policies are being set by 26-year-old MBAs that do not know that the real world is nothing like the text book version."

You tell 'em, Bubba.

"This company is still struggling since coming out of bankruptcy," said a man at a Southern snack food manufacturer, who also checked the "very dissatisfied" box.
And while many workers want to blame the owner, consider this comment from the "dissatisfied" side: "I am the majority owner. The recession hurt!"

One marked difference this year: Very few people said they were dissatisfied because of a lack of responsibility or challenging work. That was a common complaint of past years' salary surveys.

On the positive side
As we said, despite the salary cuts and the tough year, the positive comments still outnumbered the negative ones, by more than two-to-one.

"I love the ‘something different every day' aspect and the lack of boredom," beams a 40-49-year-old in plant operations at a Southwest fruit & vegetable company (who also notes he gets a raise every year). "I like the problem-solving and analytical parts of the job and also the communication aspects."

"The R&D environment is very challenging and thus satisfying to me," said a man at a Great Lakes beverage company. "There is never a dull moment, and the continuous learning, even after 35 years in this business, is very enjoyable."

"I'm happy to be working for a dynamic company with solid market share with many natural/health-oriented product lines," said a 50-64-year-old senior manager at a Southwest dairy company. Also happy is this 30-39-year-old female engineer at a Southwest fruit & vegetable company: "Employees with this company are appreciated and respected. The company is forward-thinking, results-driven and focuses on continuous improvement." All that and a salary over $200,000 make for a satisfied employee.

A Great Lakes product developer said what a number of respondents felt: "This is interesting and challenging work. We make products that make a difference in people's lives."

"I love what I do, but I get stuck working 12-14-hour days more and more," wrote another. "I wish I had more time with my family and was able to afford a comfortable life."

Several felt their companies were sympathetic to employees and their communities. "This company understands the difficult times in the community right now, and didn't lay anyone off during the slow times," said a plant operations worker at a Great Lakes meat & poultry processor. Similarly, "This is a small company, family owned. The family has been very generous to the employees--even during the hard times when our sales hit a low," wrote an over-65 product developer at a beverage company.

And, "Our company CEO is a highly motivated and dedicated person who truly cares about the employees," wrote a 50-64-year-old female manager at a Midwestern dairy. "Compared to many other companies in our area, we are so fortunate to receive raises and bonuses in the current economic climate."

Maybe the best comment of all, from a Southern engineer who sounds like she has it all: "Excellent pay. Flexible hours to work around kids' activities. Peers are great to work with. Challenging work. And who can complain about getting paid to make beer?"

A toast to all 1,611 of you who made this year's salary survey a joy to write. And good luck at getting that 6 percent salary cut back.

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