The ingredients for job satisfaction

When ambitious people are dissatisfied with their jobs, they usually assume that the problem is one or more of the following:

  • They aren’t paid enough
  • Their boss is incompetent, or doesn’t drive them hard enough
  • They don’t have colleagues who compete and challenge them to improve

However, the actual problem is usually that their work context doesn’t offer them the following:

  • Autonomy: the freedom to work on their own terms
  • Mastery: the means to master a craft
  • Purpose: the answer to ‘why’ they are doing what they are doing

Past a point, job satisfaction is the result of intrinsic motivation – not extrinsic factors (such as compensation). We have enough research to validate this. Yet, as we move from job to job to quench our dissatisfaction, we look for the wrong things.

Most management theory assumes that people are inherently lazy, and will work only for the right incentives and penalties. But we all know how people derive innate joy from doing creative, innovative and meaningful work. As managers, we merely need to get out of their way.

Inspiration: Daniel Pink

To work hard

Who is a hard worker?

Is it somebody who ‘puts in the hours’, or ‘burns the midnight oil’?

Is it that person who has worked themselves into exhaustion, but continues working? Is it that person who fights sleep, and yet, continues to plod away? Is it that person who struggles to stay focused, but make decisions anyway? Is it that person who is too tired to detect their own mistakes?

Or instead, is a hard worker that person who is well rested and refreshed? Is it they who can sustain their focus for a long period and then make a well considered decision?

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, ‘Those who work much do not work hard’. Alas, our culture has long confused busy work with hard work.