Most workers were dissatisfied with their pay rise and bonus in 2011, with the majority having their wages frozen or even cut, research shows.
A survey of more than 3,000 adults showed that fewer than one in five received a cash bonus, around half had no pay rise and 5% received a wage cut.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said that 45% of workers received a pay rise last year compared with 67% in 2008.
Pay increases averaged 2.5% last year, well below the rate of inflation, with workers expecting similar rises in 2012 as they readjusted expectations for the year ahead in line with the economic climate.
Fewer than one in five of those questioned felt their pay rise reflected how well they had worked throughout the year and had not kept pace with the rising cost of living.
Worker attitudes towards their employers has fallen over the past four years, with public sector employees less likely to feel valued than those in private firms.
Charles Cotton, rewards adviser at the CIPD, said: "It's encouraging to see that employees recognise the impact the state of the economy has on their employers' ability to reward them with pay rises and cash bonuses.
"However, one of the main reasons cited for dissatisfaction with a pay rise was feeling that it didn't reflect how well the individual had performed.
"Employers must try harder to explain what performance the organisation values and how it will reward and recognise this.
"If not, productivity levels and economic growth could fall, so it will become difficult to break the vicious circle."