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Why the American Worker Is Miserable

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- When you spend enough time scrolling the business pages and reading between the all-caps, bolded lines of tech IPOs and banking settlements, two things become immediately apparent: It's a grim scene outside corner offices and Silicon Valley, and those toiling under that pall are getting increasingly frustrated by the experience.

A few days ago, my colleague Rocco Pendola used Tesla (TSLA) founder Elon Musk as an example of the media's fixation with building personalities up just to knock them down. He posited that folks like Musk who are out there creating PayPal and electric automobiles hold up a mirror to the rest of us as a reminder of what we haven't and, in many cases, won't achieve. The only flaw to Rocco's argument was limiting it to only the media.

The economic tumult of the last half decade or so has riddled many in the United States -- media credentialed or not -- with insecurities we just aren't accustomed to. Laura Kiesel reminded us of the results of a Salary.com survey that found only 38.5% of Americans felt fulfilled by their jobs, while only 52% said they were totally committed to their work. Only 19.5% put in extra hours because they enjoy their work and 72% are motivated solely by their paycheck.

Meanwhile, in a survey by travel site Expedia (EXPE), U.S. workers reported earning 14 vacation days, but used only 10 and left twice as many vacation days on the table in 2013 as they did in 2012. Not only does that vacation day allotment trail the 30 earned by workers in France, Spain and Denmark, but the days U.S. workers actually take off exceeds only the eight taken by workers in Thailand and seven by laborers in Japan and South Korea. Meanwhile, a Harris survey indicates that more than 91% of U.S. workers do work-related tasks on their personal time, with 37% devoting more than 10 off-the-clock hours to work each week.

This isn't just a workforce morale issue or a nationwide case of burnout, it's near malaise that should concern both those afflicted and the companies they work for. U.S. workers absolutely hate their jobs. Roughly 52% of all full-time workers in the U.S. are not involved in their work and put only as much into it as they're forced to. Of those, 18% are "actively disengaged" and so bitter about their work that they're actively trying to sabotage the workplace and make life miserable for everyone else.

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