Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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Retail therapy serves up little panacea for its workers, rated the world’s unhappiest employees

Published 20 March 2013 07:28, Updated 25 March 2013 14:29

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Retail therapy serves up little panacea for its workers, rated the world’s unhappiest employees

I’m free ... John Inman’s Mr Humphries may not have been quite so chipper had he worked in the modern retail environment, according to data from US website CareerBliss. Photo: Fairfax Media

Who would work in a shop? No one who wants to maximise their chances of being happy, that’s for sure.

Retail workers are the most unhappy employees in the world, 73,000 employee reviews at US job site CareerBliss reveal.

You can learn a lot about what makes life miserable for workers by going through the bad reviews from employees – and low pay, lack of advancement opportunities, hours that “suck the life out of you” and dreadful managers top the list.

As a worker at fashion retailer Nordstrom responds anonymously to a question about what they like at the store: “Not much, it’s like a bad sandwich made with good bread, the top bread – the chief executive – is great, and the bottom bread – the workers – are great but the meat in the middle is rotten. No matter how much mustard you put in, the meat in the middle is always going to taste bad.”

With an overall ranking of 3.8 stars on CareerBliss, Nordstrom does not rank badly as a whole. It was ranked the best retail employer by employees last year.

Other reviews show that, while some employees revel in the discounts and benefits on offer, if they don’t believe in the product or mission, the pressure to sell and make the numbers becomes unbearable.

So while workers at The Body Shop gave high ratings because they felt the company was on a crusade for good, the Starbucks manager who didn’t drink coffee knew he wouldn’t be staying around for long.

In order, the most unhappy industries were:

  • 1. Retail
  • 2. Administration and support/waste management and remediation services
  • 3. Transport and warehousing
  • 4. Wholesale trade
  • 5. Accommodation and food services
  • 6. Arts, entertainment and recreation

The survey asked workers to rate 10 factors, including their relationship with their boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks and control over the work one does daily.

The most ironic addition to the list was the arts and entertainment industry – which sells a good time but obviously offers its employees a bad one.

CareerBliss chief executive Heidi Golledge told Forbes: “While many workers enjoy the arts and entertainment industry, very low growth opportunities leave employees feeling insecure about the jobs and, overall, less happy.”

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