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Satisfaction

In 1965 The Rolling Stones wrote the hit song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, expressing angst and lack of fulfillment. Ironically, “satisfaction” at the time of the song’s recording was likely much higher than it is today.

Earlier this month The Conference Board published findings from its annual report on job satisfaction in the United States, and the results were startling.

On top of double-digit unemployment, it seems that even those who are working are (in record numbers) unhappy, unfilled and downright disinterested in the jobs they have! Here are some highlights:

  • Only 45% of those surveyed are satisfied with their jobs (down from 61.1% in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted.
  • Only 51% find their jobs interesting.
  • More workers are satisfied with their commute (despite the fact that commute times have increased) then they are with their jobs!
  • 22% of those surveyed don’t expect to be in their current job in a year.

This is not an isolated circumstance, but a long term trend that paints a gloomy picture for employers and employees alike. While one in ten individuals who want to work cannot find a job, those who are employed are – across all income levels and age ranges – increasingly unsatisfied with the jobs they have.

Double Jeopardy

The negative effects of this condition, I believe, are two fold. First, as job satisfaction plummets, so does performance, employee engagement, and productivity. During challenging times, this exacerbates corporate struggles and feeds a negative cycle of declining profits, increasing demands on employees, and overall workplace funk.

The second area of concern is the real life experience of the individual employees. Unhappiness and disinterest, experienced over an extended period of time, leads to a compromised life experience and, in many cases, declining health, relationship conflicts, and a suffering of the spirit. Indulgent after hours “escapes” may distract from the problem, but they may also create more serious issues and conflicts.

Who is to Blame?

In my opinion, employees and employers both need to make adjustments in order to combat this downward spiral and create a healthier workplace.

Ultimately, each of us is responsible for our own happiness. The first step to increasing satisfaction (at work or in life) is to accept this responsibility and take ownership of our circumstances, just as they are.

If you are miserable at work, you have two choices:

  1. Change your attitude and orientation towards the job that you have.
  2. Get a different job.

Either way, you will be doing your employer a great service.

The lens through which we view our job (or our life) determines in large part whether we will have a positive or a negative experience. Focus on the aspects of your job that are interesting and fulfilling to you. What is the purpose of the work you are doing? How does it impact others in a positive way? Who are you serving through your efforts? By focusing on others or on your unique contributions, you can shift your approach to your job and discover a more satisfying sense of purpose.

If the gap between what you do and personal satisfaction is unbridgeable, then you may need to look elsewhere for your vocation. Life is too short to commit the largest portion of your waking hours to a task or mission that is distasteful. Look at this as an opportunity to discover what truly matters to you, and develop a plan to shift your efforts into a more satisfying profession.

Employers, in turn, must create an environment where people can more easily “plug in,” get engaged, and express ideas. Employees need to be treated as individuals, validated for their input and unique contributions.

“Challenging and meaningful work is vitally important to engaging American workers,” says John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board. “Widespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success.”

“Satisfaction,” it seems, is not only a requirement for a quality life, but for a growing and profitable company. The companies who are thriving now and attracting the most talented and loyal employees, do so with a purposeful strategy:

  • Fostering communication and welcoming creative input about company processes.
  • Providing a challenging, yet purposeful mission that brings about engagement and attracts talented, spirited employees.
  • Recognizing the connections between work and other aspects of life – Family, health, spiritual growth, and personal pursuits.
  • Helping people strengthen the connections between work and those other aspects of life.
  • Rewarding effort, risk taking, creativity, and loyalty in a variety of ways (money, recognition, flex-time, etc.)

Satisfaction is not an end result. It is a byproduct of a challenging and purposeful approach to work … and to life.

  • Terri Webster says:

    Very interesting topic especially since I’ve been dealing with long-term vocational unfulfillment and have lately prayed about this seriously. Others would say I make a difference (as a lowly admin assistant), but some days I feel like my purpose is to push paper from one place to another and that’s it. I have a creative side, but it’s hard to have a consistent income as a writer/photographer especially when you don’t have a degree in anything, except a Masters in Life’s Hard Knocks :-). By the way, I’m a 50 year old female, so maybe it’s just mid-life dissatisfaction altogether. You think?

  • tcwin says:

    “Ultimately, each of us is responsible for our own happiness.” – Hits the nail on the head – I have often been told I can make a skunk smell good. focus on the positive and live is better.
    The way I look at it – I can focus on the negative at work and be unhappy and feel neglected ….or I can focus on the positive and and feel good.
    I prefer to think of the possibilities for change – then to focus on all the reasons why it won’t work.
    Good article Dan — I look forward to these every month.
    Thank you

  • Terri Jacque says:

    We all need to “own our path” being accountable for our actions. We are responsible for our outcomes, the choices we make will define us. Thank you Dan, another interesting, thought provoking article.

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