Never mind the economy Job satisfaction's up

With pessimism about the economy near all-time lows, Americans are finding silver linings at work.

We might gripe about the boss or work hours, but 48 percent of Americans are “completely satisfied” with their jobs, according to a Gallop Poll conducted Aug. 7-10. That's near the highest level in a decade for the 20-year-old annual survey. Another 42 percent said they were “somewhat satisfied.”

“I'm pleasantly surprised,” said Antwon Keith, manager of the Employment Security Commission in Mecklenburg County. “In general, most Americans understand these are hard times and those who are working are thankful to be working.”

The results were consistent across income and gender. But the older you are, the more satisfied you tend to be.

About 42 percent of those from 18 to 34 said they were completely satisfied. That compares with 57 percent in the 55-and-older group.

The workplace is changing rapidly, with more Americans grabbing new opportunities to work from home to counteract high gas prices and spend more time with family.

It's not all rosy, however. Gallop reported only 27 percent were satisfied with the level of stress at their jobs, and only 35 percent said they were satisfied with chances for promotion. More than half say they're underpaid. About 3 percent said they were overpaid.

Tom Kelly, a compensation expert with the human resources firm Watson Wyatt in Charlotte, said his firm's research shows a communication breakdown between management and employees when it comes to understanding satisfaction.

Employers report compensation as the No. 1 reason employees leave. But among top performing employees surveyed who have left jobs, it's the fifth most popular reason, Kelly said. Issues with stress, work-life balance and opportunities for advancement finished higher, he said. The research also showed satisfaction is tied to how engaged a worker is with the business and its success.