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More than four in 10 US employees say they are encountering increased workplace backstabbing, “sucking up” and politicking as co-workers take desperate measures to stay employed amid widespread fears of layoffs during the recession, according to a study conducted by Professor Wayne Hochwarter out of Florida State University.

The study, “The Hits Just Keep Coming: How the Recession is Affecting Families and Work,” surveyed 300 married, working couples in an attempt to quantify the effects of the financial crisis both at work and in people’s personal lives.

More Stress at Work

In addition to showing an increase in ‘incivility,’ results show that in the workplace, large numbers of people are feeling more stress, more pressure from management and more concern about their job security:

  • More than 70 %of both men and women in the survey confirmed that the recession has significantly increased the stress levels of employees in recent months.
  • More than half (55%) reported that management has grown increasingly demanding.
  • More than 60% were asked to find ways to cut costs at work on a weekly basis.

More Stress at Home

The study also explored the shifts in home life wrought by the financial crisis. It found that more than 70% of both men and women admitted making significant spending changes, including a decision to limit or eliminate the purchase of non-essential items.

Other findings about home-life behaviors:

  • More than 80% of both men and women said it was unlikely they would be able to retire when they wanted and with the amount of money anticipated as recently as one year ago.
  • 42% could maintain their current standard of living for just one month or less, while the majority of those asked (55%) reported three months or less.

Interestingly, more than 33% of couples reported discrepancies of more than six months in perceived standard of living following layoffs, suggesting that husbands and wives are not always on the same page in terms of financial status or long-term economic viability in the event of job loss, the study found.

“Scared – it’s the one word I would use to describe the mental status of employees these days,” Hochwarter said.

Next Job No Better

Hochwarter also noted that although employees report feeling more stressed and more strained today, they aren’t looking to improve their situation because they don’t believe their next job will be any better than the current one.

The housing market is also playing a big role in the current state of inertia, he said. “For many, selling a house and its potential to contribute to an already dire financial situation is simply too much at this point.”

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