Why Is Everyone So Unhappy at Work? BambooHR® Employee Satisfaction Shows 2023 Holiday Blues

New eNPS Benchmarks Across 8 Key Industries Show 4-Year Low

Employee satisfaction took a turn for the worse in the last quarter of 2023, resulting in the lowest overall average eNPS score in four years. Even the holiday season wasn’t enough to spread cheer—the average score was 10% lower than in December 2020, the year that brought us a global pandemic.

However, this winter of employee discontent was mainly driven by two industries, both of which saw a significant dip in eNPS scores—technology and nonprofits. In fact, most industries enjoyed a recovery in their employee happiness scores.

Read on for industry breakouts on employee satisfaction and top suggestions from employees on how to support improved happiness at work.

Editor's Note: Respondent quotes were sourced from external interviews. All names and identifying information have been changed to protect privacy. Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

💡 Employee Satisfaction Key Takeaways

“Jobs have become harder to find. While my company is pretty stable, seeing layoffs in the news gets me thinking, ‘Should I be a little bit worried as well? Should I be looking just in case?”

IT Engineer

🗳️ Top 4 Employee Concerns and Suggestions

In addition to these eNPS scores, BambooHR Employee Satisfaction also gathers millions of open-ended employee responses**. The most frequent suggestions voiced by employees in Q4 2023 center around wanting to feel heard, supported, and connected.

  • Upline Feedback: More regular 360-degree reviews, more consistent one-on-ones with managers, and ways to provide feedback not just on peers but leadership too.
  • Organizational Transparency: A clear roadmap for the future that isn’t a moving target, while also having the flexibility to deliver value quickly, and standard processes for projects.
  • Increased Compensation: Competitive pay, clear and transparent structure for raises, promotions, and bonuses; improved incentive programs, i.e., stock options, and improved amenities.
  • Team and Career Support: In-person team-building activities and skills training, access to online learning resources, and ways to strengthen team camaraderie.

📊 How Has Employee Satisfaction Changed in 2023? 8 Major Industries, Ranked and Compared

Average eNPS in Q4 2023
Average eNPS in Q4 2022
Difference in Ranking
Travel & Hospitality
+3 (up from #5)
-2 (down from #2)
Restaurant, Food & Beverage
+1 (up from #7)
-1 (down from #6)

What’s Employer Net Promoter Score? (eNPS)*

eNPS helps employers measure employee satisfaction. It consists of a numeric rating of how likely employees are to recommend the organization as a place to work. Employees select a score from 0–10, and these scores (categorized as Promoters, Passives, and Detractors) are used to quantify how employees feel about their company.

The eNPS score is then calculated by taking the percentage of Promoters and subtracting the percentage of Detractors. The resulting score can range from -100 to +100, with higher scores indicating a higher level of employee satisfaction and loyalty.

*Net Promoter, NPS, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks, and Net Promoter Score and Net Promoter System are service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

🖥️ Tech Workers Unhappiest Since the Pandemic

Tech worker satisfaction remains in decline, as Q4 eNPS ratings continue the industry’s downward trend. December 2023 was the most unhappy tech employees have been since the start of 2020.

Layoff Fears, Uncertainty Around AI Likely Driving Tech Workers’ Unhappiness

The surge in tech layoffs and the excitement over AI at the beginning of 2023 set the tone for the rest of the year.

  • Continued layoffs in Q4: Even though tech layoffs slowed considerably after the opening salvo, they never came to a complete stop, and the number of tech layoffs went up in Q4. Overall, tech's total announced layoffs for 2023 were just shy of breaking the previous record set during the Dot-Com burst in 2001.
  • AI sparks competition and uncertainty: In an October 2023 survey, 62% of US CEOs said their companies needed to get a jump on gen AI to stay ahead of competitors. However, 61% also struggled with creating and executing an AI strategy due to gen AI's unknown potential.
  • AI a double-edged sword for employees: Employees worry about their jobs disappearing (75%) and getting paid less (72%), but many also say AI has impacted them positively in their work (76%). Almost half of employees report feeling more worried about AI in 2023 than the previous year.

“I was much happier a year ago compared to now. We're being overworked and lacking the ability to focus on our families because we're so focused on the code. I feel like every day is a struggle. I can’t even get away to go outside.”

Software Engineer

💌 Nonprofit Plummets to Second Unhappiest Industry

The end of 2023 was decidedly uncharitable to nonprofits. In contrast to tech’s steady decline, nonprofit employee satisfaction leaped off a cliff in Q4 2023. Satisfaction scores dropped a whopping 10% from September 2023, reaching the industry’s lowest score since July 2021.

Nonprofit Sector Suffers from Fewer Donors, Fewer Donations, and High Demand

Lack of funding, staffing shortages, and retention issues continue to impact nonprofit employee happiness. Other factors include:

  • Fewer donors and donations: 2023 was the third year in a row with reduced donor involvement, with a decline in donations from both large and small donors. Many donors cite economic uncertainty as the key reason they are reducing, declining, or postponing donations.
  • Increased needs: Over a quarter of nonprofits report longer service waiting lists.
  • Delayed action: Nonprofits had to wait a while longer for a tax benefit that, like the 2020 CARES Act, would encourage more charitable donations.

“The federal funding we’ve had for several years is ending, so I only have a six-month runway to find new funding or we'll have to shut down. In the face of growing community needs and my employees asking for higher wages, it's been really discouraging. I’m trying to stay focused on our mission, look for creative ways of doing business, and find ways to recognize employees. There’s so much good we can do as long as we don’t give up.”

Nonprofit Program Manager

🚧 Construction Is Still the Happiest Industry; Travel, Food, and Other Industries were Happier in Q4 than in Q3

🚧 Construction

Construction employees still top the rankings as the happiest workers in 2023, with the last quarter of the year continuing the midyear upward trend with a noticeable holiday happiness spike.

Q4 saw significant increases in construction, with hotel projects hitting record-high numbers and almost record-breaking highs for new housing builds.

“Things are going well; the work is there or steadily increasing. Companies tend to stay a lot leaner, so there’s not ups and downs in positions. And we work together as a team. Construction is rewarding—it's exciting to see something from start to finish. It’s hard work, but most people like what they do.”

Construction Finance Manager

🧳 Travel & Hospitality

The travel and hospitality sectors ended 2023 with a rebound in employee satisfaction, recovering from the drop in the previous quarter. With a 17% jump compared to 2022, they also saw the most drastic recovery in 2023 overall, ending up the second-happiest workforce.

A major factor is strong Q4 consumer spending in travel and tourism, which economists attribute to leftover demand from the pandemic. Contract negotiations also opened for flight attendants at major airlines, bringing hope for wage increases and improved working conditions.

“I have extraordinarily good teamwork among my staff. I wonder about the longevity of certain programs we offer and if they can offset my expenditures in keeping these guys hired. So that has affected me personally trying to figure out ways to keep these guys occupied and make sure they're happy.”

Recreation Camp Director of Operations

💵 Finance

In November 2023, the finance industry reached its highest eNPS score (38) for the year, bouncing back from a decline in happiness levels in the previous quarter. However, employee satisfaction is still 25% lower than its peak in January 2022.

Though overshadowed by tech’s louder layoffs, many US banks and financial institutions also cut an estimated 62,000 jobs in 2023, with Goldman Sachs holding three different layoffs rounds. Slower market growth and other financial pressures likely drove these measures, resulting in lower employee happiness.

🍽️ Restaurant, Food & Beverage

Despite experiencing lower lows than in 2022, the restaurant/food and beverage industries ended 2023 with a substantial 18% recovery compared to Q3 2023.

Like travel and hospitality, strong consumer spending in Q4 generated higher restaurant sales. Restaurants also hired more staff than in 2019, with two-thirds expecting to add even more positions over the next year.

📚 Education

Happiness in the education sector rose only slightly at the end of 2023, with a marginal increase in Q4 following Q3’s upward climb.

Some of this increase may be due to salary increases; 79% of district leaders reported raising teacher pay, per an October EdWeek survey. However, educators still faced many challenges, including seven school shootings in Q4 alone, along with continued repercussions from the pandemic and new challenges brought in by AI.

🩸 Healthcare

Healthcare ended 2023 at the same satisfaction level as when the year began, with January and December eNPS scores at 33. And while the Q4 average was one point lower than Q3, it remained above the dip experienced in Q2.

“Employee morale was in the toilet during COVID. Lots of nurses and frontline workers have found other roles or professions that feel better to them. But it’s getting better here from my experience.”

ER Nurse

About BambooHR

BambooHR® is the leading provider of cloud-based HR software solutions that empower HR professionals to manage, support, and grow what matters most—their people. As a company, BambooHR's mission is to set people free to do great work, by automating, centralizing, and connecting employee data all in one place to support better decisions.

The platform’s intuitive and intentionally designed payroll, time tracking, benefits, performance, and reporting solutions support the full repertoire of HR responsibilities—all backed by award-winning customer service. Over the past 15 years, BambooHR has been the trusted partner of HR professionals at 32 thousand companies in over 150 countries and 50 industries, for supporting millions of users throughout their employee experience.


All source data is from BambooHR Employee Satisfaction with eNPS, gathered between January 2020 and December 2023 and includes more than 1,600 companies, tracking anonymized responses from over 57,000 unique employees since January 2020. The data analyzed includes more than 1.76 billion self-reported eNPS scores. The most recent quarter’s data is added to the historical data set on the first day of the new quarter.

Industries include healthcare, finance, construction, travel and hospitality, nonprofit, restaurant/food and beverage, education, and technology.

Respondent quotes were sourced from external interviews conducted between January 15–30, 2024.

**Employee feedback was also gathered from open-ended responses from eNPS surveys from October 2023 to December 2023. These were combined using BambooHR’s proprietary product feature, AI Topic Summaries, which shows which topics came up most often in employee feedback during the quarter.

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