This is a corrected version of a chart that accompanied a report in yesterday's Business and Finance section on the progress of Harvard Business School's Class of 1974. Graph, How Satisfied Are They? The Washington Post CAPTION: (NEW-LINE)Graph 1, The Harvard Business School Class of '74 Five Years Later: Wealthy, But Happy?; Graph 2, Annual Income; Graph 3, How Satisfied Are They?
Last weekend, Harvard Business School professor John P. Lotter put his life on the line - in the name of research, of course.
He told the 5th reunion of the B-School Class of '74 something that few others would dare tell graduates of this bastion of capitalism: The more money they were making, the unhappier they were becoming.
Like any self-respecting researcher, Kotter backed up what he said with facts. He gave the class of '74 the bad news while presenting the preliminary results of the most comprehensive ongoing survey ever performed on a graduating class at Harvard or any graduate business school.
Kotter spent the past five years tracking 140 members of the 800-member class of '74 with detailed, intense questionnaires every year. What emerges - although he stresses it is still preliminary - is a fascination study of this intensely competitive group, and what has happened to them not only in terms of work, but in terms of lifestyle and overall satisfaction.
As with any B-School analysis, we will go right to the bottom line, then we'll get to this satisfaction business.
The Class of '74 is making bucks, big bucks. The average salary of each class member is $46,000 a year, up from $18,500 in 1975, a year after graduation. And the most popular job areas in which the graduates work are marketing/sales (29 percent) and general management (24 percent).
But they work hard for their money. The average number of hours spent working each week is 55.6, up from a flat 50 in 1975.
And many have a great deal of responsibility. A quarter of them supervise more than 10 people while 5 percent supervise more than 100.
More than half have changed jobs at least once. Almost a quarter have changed jobs three or more times during the past five years. One unnamed graduate is on his ninth job. Almost half have changed industries at least once. And one fascinating finding was that those who have had only one employer since they left school average about $38,000 a year in income, while those who are on their second employer average $54,000. And finally, those with three or more employers in their five years average about $45,000 a year.
Kotter and several class members speculated that one reason for this salary difference is that those who are on their second job took it when they had a better idea about what they wanted to do and where to do it, while those who are on their third or higher job probably have had to re-evaluate their goals.
Those who switched jobs most often "often report more perceived problems due to lack of money and responsibility," Kotter said.
About three-quarters of the class are married, almost one-tenth have been divorced.Half have at least one child. More than half own their own home.
But now, it REALLY gets interesting.
From 1975 to 1977, the satisfaction of class members with both job and life-style dropped steadily, although Kotter is quick to point out that, when compared with graduates from virtually any other school, HBS graduates still appear happier with both aspects of their lives.
Then, in 1977, something unusual happened. Satisfaction picked up in both areas. But in 1978, while job satisfaction continued to climb, satisfaction with lifestyle plummeted.
"Why are some people more satisfied with their lives than others?" Kotter rhetorically asked a room packed with about 150 spellbound graduates, eager to see how they compared with their classmates. "Does it have anything to do with who took your class while we were here?" asked one jokingly. "As I recall," Kotter quickly responed to the questioner amid the laughter, "you were like that when you were in school."
But then, Kotter began to analyze the problems the students had high-lighted in their survey responses.
"Time has been a real problem. I have not had enough time for work, family and myself," said 63 percent. "At times, I have been very frustrated by my career progress," said 60 percent.
"At times, I have been very lonely," said 42 percent.
Two out of five said they had a frustrating first year out of school because they were not given the power or responsibility they felt they deserved coming from the West Point of business schools.
One-third said they don't have enough money to do what they would like to do at this point in their lives, and at the same time wished they had more freedom and independence.
In January 1975, only seven months after graduation, members of the survey group were asked to rank a list of 32 priorities in order of importance. "The top 10 priorities for the average person were all work-related," Kotter reported. "Four out of the bottom five priorities were non-work-related."
In January 1977, from a list of 8 items, "The people reported spending more time and energy managing their jobs than any other aspect of their lives," he continued.
But by January 1979, things had changed.
In that survey, Kotter said, "Those issues that ranked higher in importance than they did in 1975 were almost all non-work activities." He cited such newly elevated goals as "having a child," "allocating time to family life," "developing or continuing recreational interests," "switching employers," "resolving a difficult issue with spouse," "achieving the skills necessary to go into a venture," "pursuing athletic activities," "becoming integrated in community activities" and "religious and spiritual development."
Nevertheless, Kotter pointed out, "In 1979, of 32 issues, 8 of the top 10 areas of most importance were still job/career-related."
Kotter divided the respondents into three categories, highly satisfied (High Sat), moderately satisfied (Med Sat), and least satisfied (Low Sat).
The one problem area that most differentiated the groups was "loneliness," he said. That is, the Low Sat group was considerably lonelier than the others. In general, he pointed out, members of the Low Sat group were almost as satisfied with job and career progress as members of the High Sat group, but were considerably less satisfied with their lifestyle and family lives.
"The factors that most account for the differences between the high and low satisfaction groups "are non-work-oriented," Kotter said. "That is, relating to family, city, off-job activities, health, and lifestyle in general."
In a statistic that appears to buck societal trends, 82 percent of the highly satisfied group was married compared with only 63 percent of the least satisfied group.
And of the people who are happiest today, Kotter's High Sat group, 29 percent said in 1975 that their job was their number one source of satisfaction. Of the people who are unhappiest today, the Low Sat group, 46 percent said shortly after graduation that their job was their most important source of satisfaction.
Kotter also divided the class into three income groups, High $ $ (averaging $74,259 annual salary this year compared to $19,240 in 1975); Med $ $ (averaging $38,111 this year compared to $18,480 in 1975); and Low $ $ (averaging $25,407 this year compared to $16,120 in 1975). One graduate, incidently, reported earning in excess of $200,000.
He found that the High $ $ group came from the most upwardly mobile families. That is, they showed in their survey answers that their parents had risen considerably in the social and economic strata from their grandparents. And they, too, were rising above their parents.
The Low $ $ group showed, however, that their parents were much closer to the social and economic status of their grandparents. "Other data also supports a more upwardly mobile pattern," Kotter said.
"The High $ $ group seem more focused on work" and appear to have fewer problems, "especially regarding money and career progress," he added.
But Kotter found that the happiness of the High $ $ group has been eroding since 1975.
In 1975, for example, members of the High $ $ group were more satisfied with all aspects of their lives - jobs, careers, lifestyles - than either the Med $ $ or Low $ $ groups.
But by 1979, things had changed. The Med $ $ group was most satisfied with job closely followed by both the High $ $ and the Low $ $. The High $ $ group was still most satisfied with career, but barely ahead of the other two groups.
And perhaps more importanttly, the Low $ $ group had become significantly more satisfied with its lifestyle and family life than either of the other groups, and even the Med $ $ group was ahead of the big moneymakers in both categories.
Kotter also found that the 35 percent of the graduates who had working spouses reported "more problems and stresses, especially problems of not enough time."
But surprisingly, the same group of dual-career families reported "significantly greater satisfaction with their lives than other people," Kotter said.