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Leadership Study: Young Workers Least Satisfied at Job

According to a new study by Leadership IQ, the youngest workers are the least satisfied. Only 30 percent of workers ages 21-30 would strongly recommend their organization as a good place to work.

By contrast, 47 percent of workers ages 61-70 would strongly recommend their organization as a good place to work, making them the most satisfied age group.

Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company, compiled these results after surveying a random sample of 11,244 employees ages 21-70 from 872 public, private, business and healthcare organizations. Age breakouts for respondents were as follows:

  • Age 21-30 (15.2 %),
  • Age 31-40 (19.6%),
  • Age 41-50 (27.6%),
  • Age 51-60 (20.1%),
  • Age 61-70 (17.5%).


Respondents were asked to rate themselves on Leadership IQ's Workplace Motivation Survey, a 24-item Likert scale questionnaire. The assessment asks respondents questions about their direct boss, corporate culture, and professional motivation.

All items were rated on a 5-point scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. Questions were gleaned from interviews with thousands of employees and leaders across various industries about their perceptions of what constitutes a satisfying workplace, and the top questions were included in the survey. Several experimental questions were also included as part of other ongoing research projects. An item was added to the questionnaire as the dependent variable to measure workplace satisfaction. This Satisfaction question, "I would recommend this company as a good place to work," is taken from Leadership IQ's employee survey.

Sample questions included:

  • I would recommend this company as a good place to work.
  • If I shared my work problems with my direct boss, I know that he/she would respond constructively.
  • I know exactly what actions I should undertake to fulfill the organization's strategy & vision.
  • I know whether my performance is where it should be
  • My direct boss recognizes my accomplishments with praise.
  • My direct boss inspires me.
  • My direct boss holds people accountable when they make mistakes.
  • I am willing to make personal sacrifices to help the company succeed.
  • I take ownership for solving problems, even if I did not create them.


"Age is positively correlated to workplace satisfaction, so the older you are, the more likely you are to have a high opinion of your company" says Mark Murphy, Chairman & CEO of Leadership IQ. "And a big cause of this seems to be that each age group is motivated very differently."

This study discovered that the biggest statistical driver of workplace satisfaction for workers between the ages of 21-30 is whether their boss recognizes and praises their accomplishments.

To determine which, if any, of the 24 responses from Leadership IQ's Workplace Motivation Survey were predictive of workplace satisfaction, the questions were subject to a stepwise multiple regression analysis, with the 24 questions as the independent variables, and the Satisfaction question as the dependent variable. The order in which the items were entered into the model were determined on statistical grounds. Questions with the highest correlation to "I would recommend this company as a good place to work" were entered into the model first, with each additional response entered according to their unique contribution to the model.

Overall, for workers ages 21-30, a significant association was found between workplace motivation as measured by the Workplace Motivation Survey and Satisfaction with the organization (Multiple R = .7723).

Responses to "My direct boss recognizes my accomplishments with praise" were found to be the strongest predictor of Satisfaction, accounting for 31% of the variance in Satisfaction score (R2= .3119, t = 3.94, p < .001).

Next, "The work I do makes a difference in people's lives" and "My direct boss inspires me" contributed an additional 11% (R2= .4228, t = 3.89, p < .001) and 7% (R2= .4945, t = 4.09, p < .001) to the variance, respectively. Other questions were found to be significant, but not found to add meaningfully to the model. However, this study also found that these younger workers do not feel they are getting nearly enough praise and recognition. Only 39 percent of these younger workers Agree or Strongly Agree that their boss does a good job of recognizing and praising their accomplishments.

"It's become a cliché to bemoan younger workers' need for praise and recognition," says Murphy. "But what's disturbing is that 6 out of 10 younger workers are being actively demotivated because their boss won't give them the one thing they really care about. And these results are especially disappointing because praise and recognition don't really cost anything."

By contrast, this study found that the biggest statistical driver of workplace satisfaction for workers between the ages of 61-70 is whether they can assess if their performance is where it should be.

"Younger workers want praise and older workers want clear measures of their performance," adds Murphy. "And what's clear from this study is that managers are doing a better job with their older workers than with their younger workers. Managers cannot use one management style and expect success, because every age group is motivated very differently."

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