- Are you satisfied with your job?
Are your natural aptitudes aligned with the job you are asked to do?
Does your supervisor treat you like a partner?
Does your supervisor create an environment that is trusting and open?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you are part of a growing number of people who are dissatisfied with their job. The Gallup Healthways Well-being Index registered 47.1 in August for the category titled “work satisfaction”—the lowest it has been since the measurement was introduced in January 2008. This means that nearly half of the workforce is in the same boat.
What is behind the growing job dissatisfaction?
With unemployment at +9% and frequent reports of mass layoffs, many people are so afraid of losing their jobs that they are willing to work longer hours for less pay, fewer benefits, and less meaningful work. The stagnant economy reduces the leverage employees typically have when they attempt to negotiate improved working conditions, move up in their organization or find better jobs outside the company. This loss of bargaining power leads to an increasingly unhealthy work environment.
There is not much any of us can do as individuals to change the economy. But, according to Wharton professor, Adam Grant, it is not just financial incentives that make work satisfying. There are four additional factors that can lead to an increased sense of well-being and productivity in the workplace. In our own research we found these same four “life assets” in people who were flourishing. Finding ways to express them in your work may increase your job satisfaction.
Four Essentials of a Satisfying Job
Autonomy is the opportunity to make choices. When employees are given the chance to decide what to do, when, where and how to do it, they experience greater responsibility for their work and invest more time and energy. They often develop greater efficiencies and innovations.
Mastery involves the opportunity to develop skills, expertise and knowledge. When employees are given opportunities for mastery, they naturally pursue learning and look for ways to contribute.
Doing work that matters gives us purpose. Employee satisfaction increases when they experience their work as contributing to a greater effort or cause. Meeting clients or customers who benefit from their work gives workers a clearer understanding of the purpose of their job.
Connection with Others
Building meaningful interpersonal connections is essential. The feeling of belonging to a community and being valued by others consistently leads to lower turnover. The quality of relationships with supervisors, co-workers and customers can be even more powerful than financial rewards in leading to job satisfaction.
Steps You Can Take Now to Increase Job Satisfaction
If you are dissatisfied with your job, what can you do about it while remaining in the same position? Wharton Ph.D. student, Peter Berg, has advocated for a more proactive approach on the part of employees to make changes to their jobs to better suit their own motives, strengths and passions. Berg calls this process, “job crafting” and has shown that it results in more engaging and fulfilling work.
Visualize your job as a set of building blocks.
Some of the blocks are more stressful and dissatisfying. Others are more desirable and energizing. Increase your autonomy by limiting the time spent on the unappealing tasks, freeing up time for those that you love. Carve out some time each day or week to increase your mastery by working on something new.
Re-think your job. What is the purpose of your job?
Changing your understanding of the meaning of the work you do can make a difference. In one study by Harvard psychologists Alia Crum and Ellen Langer, hotel room cleaners were divided into two groups. One group was asked to look at their work as exercise, the other, as just a regular cleaning job. The two groups did exactly the same thing at work, yet after one month the “exercise” group lost weight and body fat. The only difference was the meaning they had attached to their job.
What is your unanswered calling?
Do you have an occupation that has always intrigued you? If so, try to find a way to fold it into the work that you do. For example, if you have always wanted to be a teacher, take on the training of new employees. Berg has found that people can be “very creative and clever about incorporating their unanswered callings into what they do now… By job crafting these employees did not have to switch jobs to fulfill their unanswered callings.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to get the job you always wanted without leaving your current position? Find ways to express your autonomy, mastery, purpose, and connection by re-thinking your work.
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