The Evolution of the Modern Worker: Attitudes to Work

Pub. Date
07 August, 2012

In this chapter/discussion paper we explore how employees' experiences of, and attitudes to, work have changed over more than a quarter century. In an earlier evaluation, published in the mid-1990s, Bryson and McKay concluded that the quality of working life had deteriorated between the early 1980s and early 1990s: a period which not only encompassed the economic and policy upheavals noted above, but also the deep recession of 1990/91. In the period since Bryson and McKay's earlier analysis, Britain first experienced 12 years of uninterrupted economic growth, but has recently seen the most severe recession since the 1930s. We look therefore to see how employees' experiences of, and attitudes to, work have continued to change. Has there been further deterioration in the most recent decade, or did the years of economic prosperity and the introduction of many new minimum standards lead, instead, to an improvement? Further, what effect has the most recent recession had on employees' attitudes to work?

We begin by examining employees' perceptions to two of the most critical aspects of any employment relationship: the degree of job security and the amount of pay on offer. We then move on to consider more qualitative features of the employment relationship: the degree of trust or conflict between employees and their employers, and the degree of involvement that employees consider themselves to have over decision making at their workplace.