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Employees at some of America's biggest tech companies are increasingly negative about work, which is damaging the businesses they work for.

A study of workers at several large US high-tech firms found that more than half of their emotions about work are negative and a third are intensively negative. Most of this negativity is due to excessive workloads, boredom with the work they do, insufficient recognition and renumeration, concerns about the management's ability to manage the business and anxiety about long-term job security.

According to the research, these kinds of negative feelings lead not only to higher turnover rates, but contribute to the kind of workplace malaise that can materially diminish productivity and performance. Conversely, strong positive emotion correlates with better financial results for a business, as measured by five-year total shareholder return, said the researchers.

The problems caused by such widespread negativity are exacerbated by companies failing to understand the reasons behind such emotions. The study revealed that while employers are aware of the widespread discontent in their workplaces, they misjudge some of the root causes and risk taking inappropriate actions as a result.

"Right now, there is an enormous gap between employees' current and ideal work experience. People know what they want and need to feel intensely positive about their work, but unfortunately many are not getting it," said Mark Mactas, chairman and chief executive of global HR consultants Towers Perrin, one of the sponsors of the research.

The report found that workers regard the ideal workplace as somewhere they can feel in control of their work and work experience, that properly rewards and recognises results and allows employees to fully contribute to the success of the business.

The study, conducted by human resources company Towers Perrin and research firm Gang & Gang, surveyed 1,100 workers and 300 executives at medium and large companies across North America in September 2002. Tech workers made up the second-largest group, after retail employees, and their input statistically mirrored the study's findings as a whole. © ENN

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