By definition, job satisfaction is a conclusion we draw from a compilation of interrelated experiences and data points. When those — or at least most of those — are positive, we enjoy our work. But when important things filter through our minds as negative emotional experiences, our job enjoyment drops.
Four things usually shape job satisfaction. They are:
- Challenging work that allows us to grow.
- A supportive work environment.
- An equitable reward system.
- Positive working relationships.
Challenging work. Quality employees want to be somewhere they can learn and grow. Increasingly important these days is autonomy in some form of personally valued decision-making.
Feedback — a term I despise but one everyone seems to interpret the same — helps too. Ideally the feedback comes in the form of positive coaching, not via micromanagement, which most of us despise. People like to learn; they do not like being told what to do, how to do it, and be constricted to a monotonous “same old, same old” type of culture.
If a performance appraisal is a total surprise, the worker is not getting enough feedback. If the worker could almost write his or her own appraisal with accuracy, consistent feedback is in evidence.
Positive, challenging work is instrumental to a positive work climate. Absent meaningful work, a job is a tedious eight-hour exercise.
The more complex the job, the easier this is for workers to experience. The more tedious the job, the bigger the challenge becomes. Smart leaders never lose sight of this vital necessity.
Supportive environment. Aside from safety and comfort, a lot of little things shape a positive workforce perception. Among them are lighting, noise, the temperature, ergonomics, smoke control, cleanliness, and things like that.
Added together, these blend into a strong message that radiates throughout the work force: “This is how we value you.” Blah or cut-corner surroundings send a negative message and will not inspire anyone.
Professional surroundings inspire people. Whether you are talking about a hotel, a restaurant, a vacation experience or an office building, people enjoy nice places.
Equitable rewards. Rewards aren’t just dollars and cents. They include recognition, both formal and informal. People want to be fairly paid for what they do.
In sales, I recommend comp plans that pay big for overachievement: “If you sell a lot, you make a lot but if you don’t, you don’t.” It baffles me when I work with companies who chintz on paying top performers since the customer is paying the bonus, not the company.
It is also disappointing to see (far too often, in my opinion) managers who are cheap with compliments and recognition. Being nice is free. Being supportive is free. Recognizing good work is free. Making someone feel good is free. Workers — especially younger ones — want to feel valued. The right words, timely spoken, are powerful motivators when integrated into both formal and informal recognition programs.
Workers love being recognized not just in private but especially in front of their peers. Feeling appreciated makes us feel good.
Positive relationships. Whether we are talking about an audience of one or an audience of many, current workforce motivation is all about orchestrating positive emotional experiences via daily interactions.
Strip away the bricks and mortar and a company is just a collection of individuals ostensibly chasing a common good via interrelated goals.
Each does this in order to pay their bills, live their lives, and pursue their ambitions. Positive people are positive magnets; people gravitate toward them. Negative people are repellants; people avoid them.
Because of this, relationships matter. The key, therefore, is to look for the good in everyone. When that’s what you look for, that’s what you see. Positivity is a decision, an approach to life that soars way beyond work. The choice to be that type of person, or not, is ours to make. Want more friends? Be one first. That’s all it takes to expand your sphere of positive influence.
Why these four things matter
The three biggest reasons good salespeople — and many other types of workers — choose to leave an organization are, in order: they are not growing, they do not like the boss, and money.
By respecting and nurturing the four job sat factors we’ve already mentioned, companies and leaders are fully empowered to do what’s required to create, improve, or sustain a positive workforce environment. Job satisfaction is a movable object.
There is a strong statistical correlation between job satisfaction and absolute performance. The same holds true with attendance — which is underestimated but important — as well as retention. Absenteeism deflates job enthusiasm as does unforced attrition.
Replacing a skilled knowledge worker is also expensive; it costs a company between six and eighteen months’ pay plus benefits. Dissatisfied workers who choose to leave cause direct hits on profitability. It can also be infectious, the reason being that talent has options.
I do a lot of career counseling, usually in unexpected moments of private trust. As the economy loosens and jobs free up, unhappy workers are once again looking at grass that sometimes appears greener an Ireland springtime.
In these scenarios I ask two questions: “Do you enjoy what you do?” and “Are you fairly paid?”
When the answer is yes and yes, I tell them to block out the noise and focus on staying engaged in order to build a career based upon great work.
When the answer is one yes and one no I ask, “Can you change the ‘no’ to a ‘yes’?”
If so, I tell them to do it. If not — if they can’t get more job enjoyment or make more money, I ask the important follow-up: “Can you live with the ‘no’?”
If they can live with one yes and one no, I recommend they block out the no and focus on what’s good about the job or money. I underscore the importance of proactively investing in their talent set, reminding them that when it comes to our career trajectory, who owns it: the company or us? We do, of course.
But if the answers are no and no, someone does not like his or her job and is not fairly paid and sees no way to change either, the obvious response cuts to the core.
“Get out,” I say. “Quit sulking and get busy. Make it happen. Do not wait one more day. If you cannot commit you will never do good work. Do not hang around. Figure out what makes you happy and go chase it.”
A lot of workplace dissatisfaction is controllable and fixable so my advice is simple: Engineer your head properly and stay positive. Believe in yourself and make your office a better place to work, not just for you but for everyone.
Life is wonderful but zooms by like a godwit. It is an honor to work with pride for a well-deserved wage while being recognized as an important contributor.
Try it and see.
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