Thursday, May 17, 2007

Whine Much?

Myf sent me an article about this survey of 14,000 workers in 23 countries on Monday. I've been pondering it since. The study, What Workers Want, A Worldwide Study of Attitudes to Work and Work-Life Balance, by FDS, is most interesting to me not necessarily in what it reports, but in how the media reports it.

For example, in the results of the survey, we learn that workers in the United States on average (it could be the median, but I can't tell from how it is worded) earn more than anyone else in the world. That's not a huge surprise.

But look at what else is conveyed in a number of articles reporting the results:

"The chief of FDS, Charlotte Cornish, was surprised to find that Americans were fourth on the list of the biggest whiners. Americans make the most money of anyone else in the world, but yet they are so unhappy and want far more than what they have."

This is fascinating, (and you may need to read one of the versions of the entire article to see this) because:

a. it is not the salary that workers in the US find problematic, but the conditions at work, including benefits, and the work-life balance; and
b. unhappiness at work, asking for more, and noticing flaws are all equated with whining.

Unhappiness isn't whining. Asking for more benefits isn't whining. Noticing that you have the longest work week in the world isn't whining. But that's how the article reads.

So while this survey was supposedly about workplace attitudes, the interpretations of the survey in the media all reference moaning and whining, including how little the workers in Thailand whine, and how much the Brits, Americans and French do.

It's certainly part and parcel of the corporate party line in the United States: be grateful for what you have or you'll be laid off. We can always outsource your job to somewhere the people are happy with less.

You can read other reports on the survey at Digital Journal, Docuticker, and Yahoo.

I've requested a pdf of the study.