Working twice as hard for half the money

Being out of work is taking a toll on job seekers. But even those with a job are getting fed up.

Layoffs, diminished benefits, pay cuts and extra workload burdens are finally pushing many disgruntled workers right out the door.

In a study by CareerBuilder, 24% of workers say they no longer feel loyal to their current employer and 19% plan to move to a new job this year.

Almost one-quarter of respondents surveyed by the Conference Board in a separate study said they didn’t expect to be at their current jobs within a year.

Since the recession took hold two years ago, only the threat of the unemployment line was keeping workers on the job. But as the economy shows signs of improvement, “people will start taking off in droves,” said Rusty Rueff, a career and workplace expert at Glassdoor.com.

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Brent Quam hopes to be one of them. Quam, who is 36 and works as a flight attendant at a major airline, has seen his pay and compensation cut 33% since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. At the same time, his hours have increased.

“We’re working twice as much than we’re supposed to be working for half the money,” he said of himself and his coworkers.

He has since gone back to school and graduated with an MBA, hoping to find work in arts administration and leave the airlines behind.

Despite his discontent, Quam says he will continue working at the airline until he receives a job offer. “I really can’t afford to quit, it’s a matter of grinning and bearing it until things turn around.”

“Workers feel like they took the brunt of the recession because companies had to do whatever they could to cut costs, and what they cut were programs that directly impacted employees,” explained Michael Erwin, a senior career adviser at CareerBuilder.

Now, with signs of improvement in the economy, employers should start thinking about worker retention, rather than cost cutting.

“Morale is in the toilet,” said Glassdoor’s Rueff. “Morale issues lead to productivity issues which lead to results issues.”

If employers do not communicate what employees can expect going forward in terms of reinstating salaries and benefits, then that’s going to cause a lot of friction, Rueff explained.

Take this job and shove it?

Joan Marie Verba, 56, couldn’t take another day with her former employer.

“I worked for a nationally advertised weight loss company. Our pay was basically minimum wage, with commissions for each client,” she said. “However, ever since the recession started, the number of clients diminished, which meant that the pay essentially was reduced to minimum wage.”

Plus, “they were cutting hours and the opportunities were just shrinking,” she said.

“I was just so frustrated, I had to make a change,” Verba said of her decision to quit in December.

She has since been looking for another job while taking additional classes in health coaching and working as an independent weight loss consultant.

But experts say employees need to keep their emotions in check and think twice about whether to jump ship without a back-up plan.

“It’s going to be even more competitive than it was last year,” Erwin said.

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Workers should start thinking about their next move, update their resumes and build up networks. But quitting on the spot as a form of protest is not advisable considering the alternative of getting lost in a sea of job seekers competing for few openings.

“People who are in jobs need to think long and hard before they jump up and say that the grass is greener on the other side,” Rueff cautioned. “I don’t think they want to be out there on the street right now.”

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