A 30-year-old midlevel manager—let’s call her Fatima—is struggling at work, but you wouldn’t know it from outward appearances. A star member of her team in the marketing division of a large multinational foods company, Fatima consistently hits her benchmarks and goals. She invests long hours and has built relationships with colleagues that she deeply values. And her senior managers think of her as one of the company’s high potentials.
But outside the office, Fatima (who asked not to be identified by her real name) would admit that she feels stagnant in her job, trapped by the tension between day-to-day demands and what she really wants to be doing: exploring how the company can use social media in its marketing efforts. Twitter, her cause-marketing blog, and mobile gadgets are her main passions. She’d like to look for another job, but given the slow recovery from the recession, sticking it out seems like her best (and perhaps only) option. “I’m still working hard,” she tells a friend. “But I’m stuck. Every week, I feel less and less motivated. I’m beginning to wonder why I wanted this position in the first place.”
Sound familiar? Over the past several years, we’ve spoken with hundreds of people, in a variety of industries and occupations, who, like Fatima, are feeling stuck—that dreaded word again. According to a recent survey of 5,000 U.S. households by The Conference Board, only 45% of those polled say they are satisfied with their jobs—down from about 60% in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted.
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