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Increasing Job Satisfaction May Require Additions and Subtractions

You've got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don't mess with Mr. In-Between

Job satisfaction is a very broad and rich topic. Let’s dig in just a touch below the surface to look at how to improve job satisfaction. Many articles indicate that job satisfaction does not come dressed as bean bag chairs, free snacks, or a dog-friendly policy. These may indicate that work relationships are very good and employees are happy to be there, but there’s no guarantee. Similarly, there’s good debate on salary and compensation. Generally, if a person believes their compensation is fair, then that issue is neutralized. Of course, we all would like more money, but increases in salary as a means to improve job satisfaction usually have a short life span before dissatisfaction settles back in.

In his study from 1966, Herzberg identified factors that attribute to satisfaction and factors that attribute to dissatisfaction. My observation is that generally stated, factors that contribute to dissatisfaction can be attributed to the bottom two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Factors that contribute to satisfaction, can be observed on levels 3, 4, and 5 as indicated below:

Fulfilling one’s potential should not be confused with achieving perfection or no further opportunity for exploration, creativity, or even improvement. Understand fulfilling one’s potential as being able to use and develop skills and abilities on a very regular basis rather than occasionally.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink indicates that job satisfaction can be high when a person has autonomy, mastery of their work, and believes their work has purpose. Essentially, researchers over decades share the observation that people need to matter in order to enjoy high job satisfaction.

To reduce job dissatisfaction, eliminate the negative. Observe the factors that contribute to job dissatisfaction and mitigate them. Poor supervision and relationships will contribute to dissatisfaction. Good supervision and relationships ensure that dissatisfaction is not increased. It may be little convoluted, so here’s a metaphor: washing my car ensures it is clean, it doesn’t make my car newer.

To improve job satisfaction, accentuate the positive. The factors that lead to satisfaction are all human relations with the exception of the work itself. A person enjoys achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and growth almost exclusively as a result of relationships with other humans. Using achievement as an example, a person could write efficient, elegant, and meaningful code. But if that code is never implemented or the positive effects aren’t noticed, its it an achievement? It may certainly be really cool and give the author a sense of accomplishment, but that might be considered satisfaction with the work itself.

CALL TO ACTION: get to know people.

The best way to improve job satisfaction is to focus on achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, growth, and the work itself. The only way to move the needle in these areas is to know what people want, appreciate, and value. Here’s the Secret Sauce – talk to people.

A person who exceeds all expectations on a project would appreciate recognition (i.e. to know their workmatters and has purpose). Maybe they would like a party, public acknowledgement, hand-written card, meaningful conversation, gift card, sky writing, praise from boss’s boss, feature in the quarterly newsletter, or any other type of meaningful connection based on THEM, the super star. Because they are so great, do the extra work to recognize them in a way that means the most for them.

If each element of improving job satisfaction was addressed here, it would get boring. Why? Here’s the formula: Want to improve employee satisfaction with respect to (specific factor)? Then talk to your employee about (specific factor), listen to what they say, and implement their observations to the best of your ability.

This is manageable. No matter what economic, cultural, market, or other large forces are affecting business, there is no charge to treat people like people. More specifically, treating people like people might be the only way to effectively respond to forces that are out of your immediate control.


Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive - Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters

Herzberg, F. (1966). Work and the nature of man. Cleveland: World Pub. Co.

McLeod, S. A. (2020, March 20).Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology.

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Cover art: Photo by Juri Gianfrancesco on Unsplash

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