Few mantras have been repeated more often in the media this year
than the one about anxious American workers. It's accepted as fact
among reporters that American workers are alarmed about their
prospects in the new, global economy. Just ask Dan Rather. As
MediaNomics reported earlier this year, he spotted "fear and anger"
in the workforce over "layoffs and barely rising wages." According
to CNN's Kathleen Kennedy, "The latest rounds of corporate cutbacks
have left many people fearing that they may be the next to be
Tom Brokaw, introducing a January 29 Nightly News story about
"today's frightening job market," announced: "Job security is a
thing of the past now and the way of the future is downsizing and
layoffs, even for America's biggest companies. It's making for
The print media have been similarlyfocused on gloom. The January
22 U.S. News & World Report cover asked: "Is the American Worker
Getting Shafted?" (The magazine's answer: yes.) Newsweek's February
26 cover labeled four executives who had laid off employees as
"Corporate Killers," and declared that the "public is scared as
The New York Times saw fit to print a seven-part series depicting
American workplaces as "battlefields" with "millions of casualties."
According to the Times, the story of a man who lost a high-paying
bank job, was forced to take a job at one-fourth the pay, and then
had his family leave him "is no longer extraordinary."
To find out, Inc. magazine tried something different. Rather than
repeating emotional anecdotes about companies laying off loyal
workers, Inc. commissioned the Gallup Organization to conduct a
nationwide poll of workers.
"Across the board the 34 questions [to the worker survey]
prompted upbeat -- sometimes even glowing -- responses," the
magazine found. For example: 90 percent of the respondents were not
worried about losing their jobs and 75 percent had not had three or
more days in the past month when stress caused them to behave badly
with their families. (For more survey results, see box.)
Interestingly, Inc. found that on many questions, workers at
smaller companies are happier than those at large firms. The
national media may be missing the story of worker happiness because
they relentlessly focus on big business. Last summer, Media- Nomics
found that in the first six months of 1995, there were 119 network
evening news stories on the health of large companies, while only 13
stories focused on the health of those companies not in the Fortune
500. This is truly a whopper of an omission, since smaller,
fast-growing companies ("gazelles") created five million jobs
between 1990 and 1994, while other companies lost 800,000.
The non-business media have not reported Inc.'s findings and have
yet to tell the whole story about the true nature of the American
workplace. It is a picture of the entire economy -- they aren't
telling the whole story.