The Inc./Gallup Survey

Take the Inc. Gallup poll yourself and compare your answers to the averages. Also: read " The New-Economy Almanac" for a statistical and informational snapshot of today's businesses.

This year's skinny: workers in the United States say that times are good (still), that local businesspeople are heroes, and that the global marketplace is very scary (though they think the economy benefits when we do business abroad). The survey also reveals that one out of eight full-time employees moonlights; that youth is still wasted on the young (Generation X-ers claim the most job security but the least satisfaction); and that when it comes to praise in the workplace, women like it in writing, boomers like it more than they get it, and small companies are quickest to hand it out.

Those are among the findings of the second annual Inc./Gallup survey of American workers. You'll read about those and other discoveries in the comments annotating the survey results, below. And you'll see reflected in those notes two unmistakable patterns: when it comes to job satisfaction, Americans in smaller workplaces have it better, but Americans who own their workplaces have it best.

The top 10 findings are numbered. For readers who recall last year's survey, the first finding has a history.

1. Economic Anxiety?
What Economic Anxiety?

What a difference a year makes. No, not in the level of workplace satisfaction. That's the same as last year. (See Inc.'s State of Small Business 1996, " The Happiest Workers in the World.") But, ah, how the press has done a dramatic reversal. Take BusinessWeek, for example. On March 11, 1996, "Economic Anxiety" cried out from its cover. By September 23, that headline had evolved to "Whatever Happened to Economic Anxiety?" Indeed.

2. Small Is Big

The smaller the company, the more "extremely satisfied" are its workers--by a long shot (44%, compared with 31% and 28% for midsize- and large-company workers). And also, the more secure workers feel about their jobs.

And why not? After all, small-business workers are more likely to feel that they had the opportunity every day to do what they do best; had the chance to learn and grow over the past year; were fairly recognized for their contributions; were compensated fairly; had opinions that counted; and had jobs that were important because of the mission of their company. Despite the apparent happiness, however, small-business workers are also the most likely by far to say they'll go into business for themselves within the next two years.

3. How to Kill Loyalty (in Three Easy Steps)

Workers who say they plan to start their own business in the next two years are less likely than the average to say that they've had opportunities to learn and grow, that the mission of their employer makes them feel their jobs are important, and that someone at work encourages their development. Gee, why would they leave?

4. Doesn't Anything Make Them Happy?

Compared with the 35-to-49 and 50-plus age groups, Generation X-ers and other young workers (ages 18 to 34) feel more secure in their jobs, are more likely to say that someone at work encourages their development, and are more likely to have had someone talk to them about their progress. And yet 18- to 34-year-olds are far less likely than older workers to be "extremely satisfied" with their jobs.

5. Women's Work

Women are much more likely than men to say they have a best friend at work (61% versus 53%), have the opportunity every day to do what they do best, have someone at work who encourages their development, and in the past six months have had someone at work talk to them about their progress. And in what may be a sad reflection of our times, more women than men hold down a second job--but only 35% of them own the business at which they have that second job, while 57% of the men own their moonlighting business.

6. Department of Complaint

As they did last year, most workers (61%) say that over the past 12 months they've grown more secure on the job--and only a third as many say they've grown less secure. But 20% of all full-time workers is almost 13 million people. And 13 million people are a market. Consequently, at least two Web sites have cropped up to serve the disgruntled: Working Wounded (workingwounded.com) and the aptly named Disgruntled: The Business Magazine for People Who Work for a Living (www.disgruntled.com), whose mascot, Grunty, reminds us that " work is a four-letter word."

7. Bad for Me, Great for Us

Who said that average employees can't see past their personal self-interest? While almost no one believed that reorganization, reengineering, or the global marketplace was good for workers (15%, 10%, and 8%, respectively), comfortable majorities viewed each as good for the economy (66%, 60%, and 69%, respectively).

8. Moonlighting Becomes You

It turns out that 13% of full-time working Americans (about 8.5 million people) hold at least one extra job. The moonlighters are more likely to be women and to work for a midsize company in the South. They're twice as likely as nonmoonlighters to have owned a business at one time, and most have worked at their moonlighting job for 10 years or more. Also, according to the survey, 64,700 people don't know if they have a second job or not. ("Um, what was the question again?")

9. Owners Are Not like You and Me

Nearly 8.5 million of the 64.7 million full-time adult American workers (13%) say that they own their own business--and they like it that way. They're twice as likely as nonowners to be "extremely satisfied" on the job.

They should be. Owners are more likely than nonowners to say that their opinions seem to count at work, that they had the opportunity to learn and grow in the past year, and that they are compensated fairly. Still, do they get enough nurturing? Only 47% of them say they were spoken to about their progress in the past six months, compared with 64% of nonowners.

10. It's Under Control

A combined 78% of workers expect either to stay with their current employer or to voluntarily change jobs. Only 4% think they'll be forced to change jobs because of termination. The choice, they overwhelmingly believe, is in their own hands.

1997 SURVEY*

On a 5-point scale, where 1 is extremely dissatisfied and 5 is extremely satisfied, how satisfied are you with your place of employment?
5 35%
4 37%
3 18%
2 6%
1 4%
At work, do you have the opportunity every day to do what you do best?
Déjà vu all over again: The answers to this question and the next 15 (through "Are you more secure . . . ?") are almost identical with those we heard last year--confirming last year's unexpected discovery of widespread worker happiness.
Yes 82%
No 17%
Does your supervisor or someone at work seem to care about you as a person?
Yes 82%
No 14%
In the past seven days, have you received recognition or praise for good work?
Boom-busted? Baby boomers (35- to 49-year-olds) are least likely to say they've received praise for good work.
Yes 60%
No 40%
Do you know what is expected of you at work?
Yes 97%
No 3%
At work, do your opinions seem to count?
Yes 82%
No 17%
Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
Yes 70%
No 29%
In the past six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
Mere formality: Workers at small companies are least likely to say that in the past six months some-one has talked to them about their progress, but they are most likely to say that they've received praise over the past seven days. Is that the difference between corporate reviews and real-time feedback?
Yes 62%
No 38%
This past year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
Reason #328 to stay in school: The less educated they are, the less often workers say they've received praise and the less often they say they've had opportunities to learn and grow during the past year.
Yes 84%
No 15%
Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
Yes 86%
No 12%
Does the mission of your employer make you feel that your job is important?
Yes 85%
No 14%
Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
Yes 87%
No 13%
Do you have a best friend at work?
Yes 57%
No 43%
Do you believe you will continue with your current company until you retire?
That's what I like about the South: Workers there are the most likely to say that they're "extremely satisfied" with their jobs, that they'll stay with their current employer until they retire, and that they feel recognized fairly for their contribu-tions. Southern workers are also the least likely to have taken steps to start their own business.
Yes 55%
No 39%
Don't know 6%
Do you feel that you have been recognized fairly by your employer for your contributions?
Yes 74%
No 25%
Are you more secure or less secure in your job than you were a year ago?
More secure 61%
About the same 19%
Less secure 20%
From your most objective viewpoint, have you been compensated fairly this past year?
That's what I like about the Midwest: Workers in the Midwest are far more likely than those in other regions to say they've been compensated fairly.
Yes 69%
No 30%
Which of the following is the most effective way an employer can recognize you as an employee?
Show me the . . . personal note? For both women and men, money -- in the form of a raise--is the most popular form of recognition. But 37% of the women said that the most effective recognition is a personal note from their boss; only 25% of the men said so.
An annual performance evaluation 6%
A cost-of-living raise 11%
A raise that is tied to your performance 44%
Public recognition in front of all employees 9%
A personal note from your manager or supervisor recognizing your achievements 14%
A promotion or higher title 10%
More benefits 0%
Bonus 0%
Other 1%
Thinking just about the United States, do you have a generally positive opinion or a generally negative opinion of the following?
The gender gap: Women are more likely than men to say that the federal government is good for the economy, while small-business owners rate the federal government much less favorably than do respondents on average.
Positive Positive Negative
Business and industry 71% 8% 20%
Labor unions 41% 13% 43%
Federal government 43% 11% 44%
Which of the following do you feel best benefits our economy?
Ode to Main Street: It's men who put local businesses atop the ratings heap; they favor local businesses 45% to 35% over growth businesses. Women judge them as equally beneficial (36% to 36%).
Large multinational corporations 21%
Entrepreneurial growth businesses, started by one person or a small group of people 36%
Small local businesses 41%
Does each of the following workplace terms represent something that is more beneficial for the average worker or more beneficial for the company?
"Re-en-juh- what?" Twice as many people (20%) have never heard of reengineering as haven't heard of self-directed work teams. Could that mean that a fifth of working Americans never look at best-seller lists? We're feeling better already.

Empowerment, the old-fashioned way: We're stunned. The higher the household income, the more likely workers are to feel "extremely satisfied" with their jobs and to say that empowerment is best for the average worker. Ah, how money empowers.

Benefits worker Benefits company Never heard of it
Downsizing 4% 89% 4%
Unions 77% 12% 3%
Incentive pay 75% 18% 4%
Reorganization 15% 79% 3%
Self-directed work teams 58% 27% 11%
Empowerment 40% 41% 14%
Reengineering 10% 64% 20%
Training programs 71% 25% 1%
Global marketplace 8% 74% 12%
Does each of the following workplace terms represent something that is generally positive or generally negative for the economy?
Good Bad
Downsizing 23% 70%
Unions 54% 38%
Incentive pay 91% 5%
Reorganization 66% 27%
Self-directed work teams 84% 6%
Empowerment 56% 22%
Reengineering 60% 15%
Training programs 97% 2%
Global marketplace 69% 14%
Do you currently work at a second job?
Yes 13%
No 86%
Is this second job a business of your own, or someone else's?
Own 44%
Someone else's 53%
Do you expect this second job to be your primary source of income in the future?
Slow lane: Those moonlighting in a business of their own are over-whelmingly not looking to launch their companies into prime time.
Yes 23%
No 77%
How long have you been working at your second job?
Less than 1 year 21%
1 year to less than 3 years 23%
3 years to less than 5 years 16%
5 years to less than 10 years 12%
10 years or more 26%
Have you ever owned your own business?
Just as the history books say: 36% of men say they've owned their own business, compared with only 25% of women.
Yes 30%
No 70%
Do you still own that business?
Yes 55%
No 45%
Would you ever consider starting your own business?
Sure, but let's see what they do: More men than women say they'd consider starting a business (70% to 58%), have taken steps to start one (24% to 15%), or plan to start one in the next two years (20% to 10%).
Yes 64%
No 35%
Have you taken steps to start your own business?
Yes 19%
No 81%
Do you plan to go into business for yourself in the next two years?
Once burned: Only one in four of the people who have ever owned a business say they plan to go into business for themselves in the next two years. What do you think they learned the first time?
Yes 15%
No 83%
Thinking about the next 10 years, which one of the following best describes what is most likely to happen with regard to your present job?
You will stay with current employer 42%
You will be forced to change jobs because of job termination 4%
You will voluntarily choose to change jobs 36%
You will leave the labor force permanently 12%
You will leave the labor force temporarily 4%
Don't know/refused to answer 2%

*Percentages do not add up to 100% for some questions because of rounding and "don't know" responses.


  • Read " The New-Economy Almanac" for a statistical and informational snapshot of today's businesses and how they are operating in the new economy.
  • Take the Inc. Gallup poll yourself and compare your answers to the averages.

How the Inc./Gallup survey was conducted: In January 1997, the Gallup Organization conducted a nationwide survey for Inc. magazine. All participants were required to be at least 18 years old and employed at least 30 hours a week. With the survey methods used and a sample of 801 respondents, the resulting maximum expected error range, at a 95% confidence level, is plus or minus 3%.

Michael Hopkins and Jeffrey L. Seglin are both executive editors at Inc.