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    Jun 18, 2014

    Switched off and ready to switch jobs

    IT PROBABLY didn't need a survey to tell us that four out of five employees in Singapore would switch jobs at the snap of a finger if they were offered higher pay and better job prospects.

    After all, who doesn't want more money?

    But more sobering is the finding that nearly half the workers here are unhappy with their current jobs. In fact, as a group, they are among the most unhappy bunch of workers in the Asia-Pacific, with only the long faces of their Japanese counterparts trailing behind them.

    "Many see their jobs solely as a means to put food on the table," said Michael Smith, country director of recruitment firm Randstad Singapore.

    It was Randstad that conducted the global survey and polled 5,670 employees here.

    But what makes the Singapore workplace so unattractive? For one thing, many employees don't feel valued by their bosses, said experts. Then office politics often takes the joy out of working. Some feel their companies simply don't care enough about them.

    Firms also have to start treating their employees as partners, instead of mere order-takers.

    "Giving employees the opportunity to have more control over their career will allow them to set their own goals and feel a sense of achievement when these goals are met," said Mr Smith.

    Employers must also move beyond paying lip service to healthy work environments, and walk the talk.

    Office politics and bad bosses can sap morale, suggested Linda Teo, country manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore. Bosses need to give direction and offer support to their employees, she said. And when workers are constantly made to keep long hours amid talk of work-life balance, it can backfire.

    "If employees are not engaged, they tend to give their bare minimum, and will not go the extra mile to make themselves more productive. Company performance may remain stagnant, and unhappy employees in the service line may even cost business and damage reputation," said Ms Teo.

    Clear directions are also important. "It is important for the employer to make known...what is expected and for the employee to agree and know what he is required to do," said Ronald Lee, managing director of PrimeStaff Management Services

    Employees here told My Paper that pay, benefits, job scope, as well as bosses make a difference.

    An administrative executive, 25, who wanted to be known only as Deborah, said: "One of my ex-bosses was very arrogant and biased. If she didn't like you, she would pick on you and report very minor mistakes to the higher-ups. She even said nasty things about the clothes I wore."

    A 28-year-old marketing executive, who declined to be named, said that he is looking for another job after more than two years in his current one as "things have become stale and boring".

    He added: "When your colleagues talk about breaking points and burning out as an 'initiation' into the industry, something's not right. Companies should be investing in their people, and not chasing profits at their expense. Feeling cared for takes more than just lip service."

    But Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan sounded a note of caution. "I think we have to be realistic. Bosses may not be able to make work interesting for employees," he said.

    Employees must be proactive. "Communication with bosses and supervisors is important, so at least there is an understanding and agreement," said Mr Tan.