Americans, by nature, are an optimistic bunch. Even in tough times, there is something to be optimistic about. Where others see the glass half empty, we see it as half full. That is probably the only reasonable explanation for the findings of this survey conducted by […]

Americans, by nature, are an optimistic bunch. Even in tough times, there is something to be optimistic about. Where others see the glass half empty, we see it as half full. That is probably the only reasonable explanation for the findings of this survey conducted by Glassdoor, a Sausalito, Calif.-based startup that ranks employers by taking anonymous feedback from their employees.

Despite the dismal global economy, widespread layoffs and rising unemployment, 61 percent of surveyed employees would not be willing to take a pay cut if they discovered their job was in jeopardy. A whopping 40 percent expect a pay raise in the next 12 months, despite job cuts at their employer. Of those eligible for an annual bonus, 57 percent expect a bonus and 40 percent do not expect a bonus

The most amusing part? Four out of five employed adults say they are not concerned about being laid off from their job in the next six months. Just one in five employees are concerned they will be laid off during the same period. Perhaps the pessimistic 20 percent are reading the news.


Today, a report put out by ADP, a payroll services company, showed that 693,000 jobs were lost in December — 220,000 more than ADP was expecting based on a previous survey of economists. Of course, when it comes to others, job cuts are fair game. Forty-two percent of employees say they are concerned their company will lay off other employees in the next six months. As they say, bad things (and layoffs) happen to other people.

  1. What are you saying? That MORE than one out of five people will be laid off? US employment is, according to the chart, 113MM people. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics nonfarm employment number for November is higher, 136MM.) Are you suggesting that 23,000,000 people will lose their jobs in the next six months? That would bring unemployment to levels not seen since the height of the Great Depression (25%). Is that what you are predicting—for the next SIX MONTHS?

    The one out of five who believe they may be laid off in the next six months are, as a group, far too pessimistic, not too optimistic. The 42% who believe their _company_ may lay _someone_ off may, on the other hand, be quite right.

  2. Om, interesting piece. There is a well known cognitive bias, that people just don’t believe they are going to have bad times. The same goes for new business owners.

  3. Stacey Higginbotham Wednesday, January 7, 2009

    Andy, I think you’re assuming the American people (or those surveyed) have your level of understanding of statistics. When faced with the loss of about 2 million jobs since July, I find it odd that people aren’t more worried. After all enough people are surprised by the statistical probability that in a room of 23 people there’s more than a 50 percent chance that two of them will have the same birthday that it still makes a decent party trick. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_paradox

  4. What they say…

    If your neighbor is out of a job, then we’re in a recession. I you’re out a job, then we’re in a depression.

  5. [...] has a nice post talking about the current denial that is hanging over the [...]

  6. Stacey, I agree with you in part, but the figures Om cites show that people _are_ worried about what they probably should be worried about: that someone, somewhere, in their company will be laid off (42% agree with this). But that’s very different from worrying that they themselves will be laid off (20% or “one in five”) not sometime in their lives, but in the _next six months._ Let’s say the economy has lost 2MM jobs in the last six months. Let’s suppose a bloodbath happens and we lose five times that many in the next six months (nearly inconceivable, but hey, it could happen). That means 10MM jobs would be lost. That _still_ means that more than half of those worried people will have a job at the end of the six-month period. (Well, actually more, because some of the “what, me worry?” people will lose their jobs instead. :) )

    Om is just wrong here. Americans are too pessimistic about their own prospects, and arguably just about right on the prospects of their coworkers. They are not notably optimistic. In fact, what we actually see here is the tendency of uninformed sentiment to swing wildly from extremes of optimism to pessimism and back again, not an incorrigible optimism as Om implies.

  7. andy

    i agree with you. the markets are also behaving irrationally….have to wonder in this case if all the media crying wolf all the time becomes a self fulfilling prophecy….

  8. Stacey Higginbotham Wednesday, January 7, 2009

    Andy, I see your point. It seems to be that based on job loss data, Americans shouldn’t worry so much since so far only 6 in 1,000 have lost jobs in December rather than the 1 in 5 who think it might happen to them. Maybe I need to reread my copy of A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.

  9. [...] Bad Things (or Layoffs) Happen to Other PeopleWe all drink our own bathwater. It’s human nature. Om Malik surveys the news and comes to the conclusion that most workers are not adeqately frightened about the future. It’s the problem with those big national statistics.  If we lost 6 Million jobs this year (a monumental disaster), it would only impact 4% of the workforce. While Armeggedon may be close at hand, history (including all of the past 15 Recessions) is no real giuide. While Om thinks they should be scared, the odds are in the favor of the people who aren’t buying the big scary story. Cheesehead joins the fear mongering.   [...]

  10. @Andy Crouch

    I am trying to follow your logic — if people thing they will have jobs but their co-workers might get laid off — isn’t that being too optimistic about their own prospects?


    I don’t know if you know this — being media and someone who runs his own business, I kinda have a first hand experience to tell you — no one is crying wolf. At least not me. When Intel and Microsoft (read monopolies) start blowing up, then you know we got a massive problem.

    THanks for your comments though guys


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