Years ago, when I was trying to find the “right” job, a friend of mine said, “Doug, you’re looking for happiness in the wrong place.” And, conventional wisdom would say that, in a severe recession, just be happy that you have a job. Layoffs are still happening. The recovery is apparently slowing down, and new jobs are not being created at the rate that most would like to see. But, this does not change the fact that job satisfaction still matters for employers and employees.

First, we know that higher levels of job satisfaction is linked to higher productivity, customer satisfaction, and financial results. Just check out this study, this one, and this one.

Second, dissatisfied workers are more likely to look for employment elsewhere. Some experts estimate that employee turnover can cost as much 150% of an employees’ base salary. Show me a CEO that wouldn’t want to save on that expense!

Finally, we spend more hours at work than with family, friends, or on leisure activities. Studies show that we actually find more ‘flow’ at work where it is sometimes easier to pursue specific, meaningful goals.

So, how do we increase job satisfaction. If you’re an employer, try these tips (or, just read Dan Pink’s Drive):

  • Autonomy: Allow employees to do their jobs their way. Work with them to set specific goals and get out of their way.
  • Mastery: Find ways to help your employees grow. Their confidence and skill level will follow.
  • Purpose: Re-evaluate your mission and vision. If you’re ready, ask your employees for feedback. Either way, help them understand how their roles contribute to the organization’s purpose.

If you’re an employee, try these tips to increase your own job satisfaction:

  • Relationships: Gallup found that people who have a “best friend” at work are more likely to be satisfied with their job. Take the time to develop these relationships. Show your curiosity for others and that you care for them.
  • Resilience: Most days and projects rarely go as planned. It is important that you are able to bounce back from adversity, learn from failure, be motivated by challenges, and have a realistic belief in your own abilities.
  • Strengths: What are you doing when you’re at your best? Determine what activities and thought patterns give you energy. Look at your role and see how you can apply your strengths to your job.

My friend was just trying to help me by saying that I shouldn’t look for happiness at work. In some sense he was right – living a life of meaning, purpose, and satisfaction involves positive relationships, striving towards challenging goals, a sense of belonging to something larger than one’s self, and a dose of positive emotions, now and then. But, there is no reason why we can’t find some or all of these elements at work, too.


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