January 26, 2017

What UK workers are REALLY thinking – according to Google

“My Colleagues are Racist”

There are 2.4 million searches for the term ‘job search’ each year – a surprising 273 searches each hour – and a significant spike in searches every January. We took a look to see what insight Google could shed on why so many people were looking for jobs in this period. Was it because they were simply looking for progression? Or maybe they were unhappy?

January is a notoriously bleak month for many, and the media construct of Blue Monday – whilst somewhat dubious – does seem to have some credence. Lengthy stretches between paydays after an expensive festive period and traditionally dreary weather certainly can have a bearing on happiness levels, and can lead to workers reassessing their situation and subsequently looking to pastures new.

Another media construct, ‘National Job Hunting Day’, landing early in January around the 7th, also holds some traction. Google Trends data clearly shows significant spikes in job search activity each January.

job search
What workers really thinkSo, what’s behind all these job searches? As a leading CIPD course provider, this is an issue that both interests and concerns us. On the one hand, it’s positive to see so many people taking charge of their lives and feeling empowered enough to look for new challenges. On the other hand, we have to wonder whether employee retention was an issue at the companies these searchers worked for, and whether more could be done to support them.

Using Google Autocomplete data, we collected some of the most common suggested searches relating to various job and colleague terms. What we found was at times funny but, unfortunately, mostly disheartening. We assembled some of the most shocking searches so that we could share them with you:

 

Bullying

There’s several searches in our list that relate to bullying. Ranging from what might seem harmless – ‘my colleagues think I’m weird’ – to the downright upsetting appearance of searches such as ‘my colleagues are racist’.

It might seem funny, or even a term of endearment, to refer to colleagues as ‘weird’, but it can easily be seen as marginalising and exclusionary. This perception can in turn make that colleague feel embarrassed or even ashamed – which is possibly why they turn to Google.

racism at work

Notions of racism are a disappointing presence in our findings. Hopefully those affected were able to turn to their HR departments after using Google to seek support and stop such behaviour.

Paul Drew, Managing Director at DPG Plc., explains “it’s tough for us to see such searches and to be unable to help. It’s normal to turn to Google for advice when experiencing hardships, but the trouble is this advice isn’t a replacement for taking action and speaking to the real experts – the HR teams across the country. If you or a colleague have experienced racism, first hand or not, it must be raised with HR so that the matter can be dealt with properly.”

Illness and Hygiene

With so much time spent together in today’s offices and workplaces, illnesses and hygiene problems rarely go unnoticed. We’ve all caught that cold that started in downstairs’ office and slowly made its way upstairs because people were worried about taking time off (or didn’t put their hand in front of their mouth to cough).

‘One of my colleagues smells’ – issues like this are delicate because it’s easy to shame people if approached in a cold, accusatory manner. It’s worth remembering, too, that we never truly know people’s personal circumstances – the colleague may be experiencing an issue outside of their control.

illness and hygiene

We were frankly quite surprised to see bed bugs and pink eye appear in the autocompletes, and only hope the offices affected by these are all okay now. It must have been an uncomfortable few weeks!

Unhappiness

Despite being surrounded by many colleagues, some people can feel terribly alone, which can have a detrimental effect on motivation levels. Sometimes workers can simply feel unsuited to their jobs, or may struggle to perform them as best as they’d like. Whatever the motivation behind searches such as ‘my job kills my soul’ and ‘my job feels pointless’, people should never feel as hopeless as that.

Paul Drew says “Whilst HR teams are trained specifically to aid colleagues experiencing these feelings, they can only help when they know the issue exists. Turning to Google might be the first step but it should never be the last – speak with your HR team or a manager and raise your concerns. This is a great way to effect positive change.”

Relationships

So, here’s an issue that we weren’t surprised to see. We’re all human and attraction is something most of us are likely to experience at some point during our working lives. This can become an issue that causes… discomfort in the office.

work relationships
The potential panic that might be behind such searches as ‘kissed someone I work with’ and ‘slept with someone I work with’ is a prime motivator for turning to an impartial source of information such as Google. The trouble is the information they may be greeted with isn’t always that helpful:

work relationships1

Tricky Colleagues

Unfortunately, we were also somewhat unsurprised to see a vein of thought resembling superiority – particularly of the intellectual kind. Searches such as ‘my colleagues are idiots’ and ‘why are my colleagues so stupid?’ speak volumes – perhaps more so about the searchers than the colleagues in question…

tricky colleagues

A little understanding goes a long way when you feel this way. Unfortunately, we can’t always be best friends with everyone we work with. We can, however, treat each other with respect and aim to support our colleagues when we feel they may be struggling – and hopefully you’d be treated the same way.

With so much information at our fingertips, it’s easy to see why people turn to places like Google to solve the questions and queries they face on a daily basis. But what happens when this reliance on Google cuts out the experts? Can we really rely on what we read on Google – particularly if it is an important matter, like a HR issue?

Research has found that one in three businesses turn to Google or social media to solve their financial queries, and it’s a commonly held belief that the first stop for diagnosing an illness is often Google, not the doctor – leading to wildly inaccurate self-diagnosis.

Paul Drew continues, “Google has become the first place many people turn to if they’ve got a query or embarrassing problem. The trouble is that the advice out there is rarely as useful as we’d like, often being hearsay, gut feeling or simply inaccurate. For us at DPG, its particularly worrying that people aren’t simply confiding in their HR department when they have an issue.”

“HR departments and many managers are trained specifically for dealing with sensitive issues, and cultivating a supportive culture, so people should always feel like they can ask for advice or support if they need it.

Unfortunately, the nation’s dependence on Google can lead to HR being cut out of the equation, and this can lead to employees making rash or misinformed decisions. It can also lead to inaction, which can cause problems to become exacerbated and therefore harder to resolve.

Our advice is simple: if you have an issue, or know of a colleague who may be struggling, speak with your HR department and voice your concerns. They’ll be able to help you deal with it in a diplomatic way and by the book.”