Most Working Adults Believe they are Paid Fairly

Their Own Performance and the U.S. Economy are Perceived to Impact Job Security the Most

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New York, NY – A new Ipsos Public Affairs survey conducted on behalf of Kenexa among over one thousand U.S. working adults found that majority of them believe they are paid fairly (60%), while just over one third feel they are underpaid (37%). Just 2% report that they are overpaid, while additional fractions reported that they were not sure (1%) or preferred not to answer (1%).

The study found there are some significant differences in attitudes across demographic groups when it comes to compensation:

  • Those who are married are more likely to believe they are paid fairly than those who are not married (63% vs. 54%).
  • Women are more likely than men to feel underpaid (43% vs. 32%).
  • Those with a lower household income are more likely to feel like they are underpaid. While a majority of those with a household income of less than $25,000 believe they are underpaid (53%), fewer workers with an income between $25,000 and $75,000 (43%) or an income of $75,000 or more (29%) feel this way.

Worker Empowerment

Researchers also surveyed workers about the factors they believe impact their job security the most. Out of seven factors impacting job security, one-quarter of all surveyed workers (26%) selected their own performance as having the most impact, tied only with the U.S. economy, also selected by one-quarter of respondents (26%). In addition, 14% selected their skills and education as the most important factor. Other factors selected by workers include performance of their organization as a whole (18%), the federal government (10%), the global economy and outsourcing (8%), and their boss or manager (7%). In addition, 3% reported that other factors impact their job security most, while 1% were not sure.

Feeling Part of the Organization

In an effort to explore to what extent workers feel part of the organization where they work, respondents were asked if, when speaking to friends or family about the organization where they work, they refer to it as “We” or “They.” The study found that while 72% report that they refer to their organization as “We,” just 20% refer to it as “They.” An additional 2% say they sometimes refer to their organization as “We” and sometimes as “They,” and 2% that they do not refer to the organization as “We” nor as “They.” An additional 3% report that they are self employed, and 1% are not sure.

Some significant differences emerge when it comes to whether workers refer to their organization as “We” or “They,” including:

  • Those who refer to the organization as “We” are more likely to report they are paid fairly (63%) than those who refer to their organization as “They” (51%).
  • Workers with a higher household income are more likely than those with a lower income to refer to their organization as “We.” Eight in ten (81%) of those with an income of $75,000 or more say “We,” compared to 68% of those with an income of $25,000 to $75,000, and 55% of those with an income of less than $25,000.
  • Full-time employees (76%) are also more likely than part-time employees (58%) to refer to the organization where they work as “We.”

Productive and Ethical

When asked about their productivity in the workplace, most workers (77%) report that they are truly productive for at least six hours during an average day. This includes 38% who report that they are productive for six to seven hours a day, and 39% who say they are productive eight hours a day or more. Workers across demographic groups report similar levels of productivity.

If their job was on the line, workers would be more likely to engage in ethical behaviors like reporting a mistake someone else made (42%), than questionable ones like ignoring a mistake made by someone else (21%), ignoring a mistake made by themselves (10%), or blame someone else for a mistake they made (2%). Once quarter (27%), however, said they would not be willing to do any of these in order to keep their job. An additional 4% are not sure.

Bullied at work

The study also found that one quarter (25%) of workers surveyed say they have been bullied by a supervisor.

  • Women are more likely than men to say they have been bullied by a supervisor (28% vs. 22%).
  • Older workers are also more likely to have experienced bullying from a supervisor than their younger counterparts. While just 14% of those aged 18 to 34 report having been bullied by a supervisor, the proportion rises to 26% among those aged 35 to 54, and to 32% among those aged 55 and older.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted February 24-28 and March 3-7, 2011. For the survey, a nationally representative sample of 1,044 randomly-selected employed adults aged 18 and over residing in the U.S. was interviewed by telephone via Ipsos’ U.S. Telephone Express omnibus. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within ±3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire population of employed adults in the U.S. been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were weighted to ensure the sample's regional composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population of adults according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Julio C Franco
Senior Research Manager
Ipsos Public Affairs
New York, NY

About Ipsos Public Affairs

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Most Working Adults Believe they are Paid Fairly


Elen Alexov
Director, Marketing Services,
North America