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Emotional working: What the financial crisis is doing to US employees

We’re all a little on edge lately. From the stock market to the housing crisis, feelings of instability infiltrate our daily lives. There’s no escaping it – we’re in an economic mess. And as the pressure mounts and the stress continues, some interesting things are happening in the workplace…

Passive-aggressive emails, tight-lipped smiles in the office kitchen, no more jolly hellos in the halls. What’s going on?

The answer? Desk rage: an increasingly common affliction within the office as stresses over rising costs, debt or job uncertainty continue to haunt Americans. Jennifer Bunk, assistant professor of psychology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, has collected data on the subject from more than 1,000 workers. She found that 75% of people she surveyed have been treated rudely in the workplace at least once every year. Bunk also found that even mild rudeness decreases job satisfaction and commitment to the company, affecting turnover rates and retention. If someone quits, the company has to invest resources into finding a replacement. And if you happen to be the person to quit? Good luck commandeering the job market –budgets are tight.

A recent Fierce CIO Report found “the Corporate Executive Board in Washington, D.C., surveyed 50 CIOs, and nearly 25% said they have imposed a hiring freeze, while half said they are cutting spending on consultants and contractors.”

With job cuts and hiring freezes taking place, expanded work roles for IT staff are becoming standard procedure — which means more work and more time spent in the office.

What happens when single professionals with very little dating breathing room (less money, less time, less energy…) are cooped up in the same building everyday, experiencing similar events?

You guessed it – the office romance.

Results from Vault’s 2008 Office Romance Survey show 82% of respondents have known of an office romance between co-workers and 46% of respondents have been involved in an office romance themselves (20% of which resulted in “true love”). Well if the desk rage didn’t get you, the awkwardness post (potential) breakup will — one third of the relationships actually become “long term.” On the upside (yes, upside – I’m not that cynical) 42% believe that their mood would improve, encouraging them to go to work each morning.

Difficult times call for difficult measures, so do what you have to do. Just make sure your office romance doesn’t transform into office rage.

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