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Reports Find American Workers Less Productive, Ruder

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Labor productivity fell for the second consecutive quarter, the New York Times reports. Productivity fell 0.3% in the second quarter of this year, following a 0.6% drop in the first quarter.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' preliminary report for the second quarter of this year states that overall non-farm labor costs rose 2.2% in the same period, thanks to salary increases combined with the productivity drop. Productivity fell by an even greater number in both manufacturing and durable goods, which reported 2 and 3.5% drops respectively.

While the effect of this drop remains to be seen, the Times article states that it could lead businesses to cut jobs. Thanks in part to job cuts, last year was one of the most productive of the last decade, and featured a 4.1% overall increase in productivity.

Meanwhile, an article in USA Today reports that those workers who do have jobs have gotten a lot less pleasant to work with. That article quotes the “2011 Civility in America” poll of 1000 adults, which finds that “43% of Americans say they've experienced incivility at work, and 38% believe the workplace is increasingly disrespectful.” Going further “67% cited a ‘critical need’ for civility training.”

So what does this all mean? USA Today posits that, as employees are asked to do more due to cut backs, politeness suffers. The trouble with that argument is, according to the productivity report, employees are no longer doing that much more.

Of course, it’s possible that these productivity decreases are a natural correction from last year’s gains and studies like the Civility Poll should be taken with a grain of salt -- how do you define a term as nebulous as civility? But, taken together, these two studies do paint a picture of a tired, somewhat disgruntled workforce.

Perhaps the recession is starting to effect the working population as well. It’s an old adage that an unhappy workforce is less productive, but as the economy worsens, it becomes more difficult for companies to focus on employee happiness. Maybe companies should encourage employees to stand up more.
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