America This Week: Toxic Bosses Are Driving Us to Therapy, DEI’s Hidden Ladders, Young Women Think Retirement and Why Upskilling Trumps College

The latest trends in society and culture from The Harris Poll

Tuesday’s report that inflation eased in October buoyed the markets and hoped that The Fed may be done with interest rate hikes. Yet in our America This Week poll, fielded November 10th to 12th, among 2,095 Americans, (70%) still believe the worst of inflation is ahead. (Off only 2%-pts from September 2022). This locked-in cynicism is echoed in another recent Harris survey for the Guardian, where many wrongfully believed inflation was increasing rather than easing back in September of this year. The majority also thought unemployment was at a fifty-year high instead of what it is, a near fifty-four-year low.

This week, four new Harris Polls of note: First, with a return to the office in full swing, a surprisingly significant number of employees are turning to therapy to deal with horrible bosses. Then, despite all the DEI proclamations by businesses, we undercover hidden biases in patterns reported by hiring managers, showing that not all-inclusivity efforts are level. Next, younger women are taking their retirement savings seriously. But their success depends on many hidden factors that affect them more than men. Lastly, many young people jump into work over college by favoring future upskilling rather than a four-year degree. 

Toxic Bosses Drive Employees to Therapy: Fast Company-Harris Poll

As more hybrid and remote workers return to the office, the toxic boss of the Zoom screen is now IRL. Our Thought Leadership Practice (reach out to Harris Poll CSO Libby Rodney [email protected]) recently shared their data with Fast Company and Business Insider with the surprising finding that many are taking their work problems into therapy. 

  • Nearly three-quarters (71%) of workers have had a toxic boss at one point or another, and about a third (31%) are currently working with one – dealing with such behaviors as unprofessionalism, credit-stealing, and unreasonable expectations.
  • Sunday Blues: (71%) of workers have anxiety over the weekend about returning to work on Monday, with more than half (53%) saying they’ve had nightmares about their boss, and (41%) have sought therapy because of a toxic boss.
  • While two-thirds (66%) of people with a toxic boss say they’re actively job-hunting, most (72%) have to stay in their job for financial reasons, and (65%) can’t quit because they’ll lose their benefits.
  • Failure to communicate: Over two-thirds (68%)  have heard the phrase, “What I say is final because I am the boss.” or, “You’re lucky to have a job in today’s economy” (66%) and “Listen, I had to work these crazy hours when I was your age” (63%). 

Takeaway: “It’s nothing short of astonishing how the presence of toxicity not only persists but actively flourishes within certain workplace environments,” Libby Rodney, the chief strategy officer at The Harris Poll, said. This might explain why previous Harris Poll research found that women and People of Color were happier working from home (and away from their bosses). You’ll be able to read the full report here.

DEI’s Hidden Hiring-archy: Express Employment Professionals-Harris Poll

While U.S. companies strive to meet diversity workforce goals, some hiring managers tell us they’re feeling pressure to meet their DEI requirements, according to recent research with Express Employment Professionals. These numbers show the real challenges of hidden biases or too-small talent pools resulting in “unequal” equity measures.

  • First, more than half of hiring managers (56%) feel pressured to place DEI hiring requirements above hiring the best candidate.
  • Who do hiring managers hire most? They told us they first prioritize under 30 (70%) and those who identify as female (66%), followed by military veterans (59%) and people with disabilities (53%).
  • Yet, less than half prioritize hiring those who identify as LGBTQ+ (48%) and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) (44%).
  • But Americans believe BIPOC employees improve the bottom line: According to our research with the Black Economic Alliance, (81%) of Americans agree that corporate America should reflect the diversity of the American population and that promoting racial diversity in business leads to increased innovation, profitability, and employee retention (84%, 79%, 79%). 

Takeaway: “Organizations with a strong workplace culture in diversity and inclusion have been linked to an increase in productivity, belonging, engagement, and innovation,” said Angela Russell, Express Employment International Organizational Development and DEI manager. 

Young Women Take Retirement Savings Seriously: Northwestern Mutual-Harris Poll

Young women are not only taking on their careers but also thinking about their financial future in our new surveys with Northwestern Mutual and Transamerica Institute featured in Yahoo! Finance.

  • Nearly six in ten Gen Z women (59%) believe they will be financially prepared for retirement – a sharply higher cohort than reported by women in other generations (Millennials: 43%, Gen X: 38%, Boomers+: 48%). 
  • They are willing to ask for help:  Eight in ten Gen Z women (79%) and millennial women (76%) said their financial plan needs improvement and could benefit from advice.
  • Women face unique obstacles in saving for retirement: Other Harris research with Transamerica Institute finds women workers (74%) are slightly less likely than men (78%) to be offered an employer-provided 401(k) or similar retirement savings plan, and about a quarter of women workers (22%) are not provided any retirement benefits by their employers (v. men: 16%).
  • That discrepancy is because women are more likely to work part-time contract jobs: Women are twice as likely as men to work part-time (16% and 8%, respectively). Only (45%) of women who work part-time are offered a 401(k) or similar plan compared with (79%) of women employed full-time.

Takeaway: “Women’s ability to achieve a secure retirement ultimately depends on their having access to meaningful employment and equitable pay throughout their working years and greater societal recognition of their invaluable unpaid work as mothers and caregivers,” says Catherine Collinson, CEO of Transamerica Institute. “Their success depends on employers’ provision of retirement, health and welfare benefits, and flexible work arrangements that support work-life balance.”

Later Upskilling Can Be More Important Than A Degree: EdAssist by Bright Horizons-Harris Poll

In an era of ongoing job uncertainty and rapid-fire advancements, we find with EdAssist by Bright Horizons that working Americans think more about upskilling and less about college.

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of workers want to develop new skills or pursue additional education. 
  • (76%) of American workers plan to continue building career skills in their free time.
  • Work first, learn second: Nearly half (48%) say they would prefer to forego the typical education-to-career path, opting to enter the job market in a less advanced job and then receive an employer-sponsored education later.
  • College ROI called into question: (65%) say the days of needing a traditional college degree to get a good job are over, with (77%) believing other forms of education like certifications and online courses offer more “bang for your buck” than a traditional college degree.

Takeaway: “Employees are seeking both stability and support more than ever before,” said Diane Bartoli, Senior Vice President of EdAssist by Bright Horizons. “These stressors also empower many to think beyond traditional college programs and work trajectories to achieve their career and financial goals. This shift provides a golden opportunity for employers that offer a wide array of education-focused benefits to stand out as a leader in the ongoing talent war.”

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from November 10th to 12th among a nationally representative sample of 2,095 U.S. adults.

John Gerzema headshot

John Gerzema


Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from November 10th to 12th among a nationally representative sample of 2,095 U.S. adults.


Related Content