Nearly 100 per cent of execs love their jobs

Work environment, not personality traits, determine passion for the job
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/09/2008

Canadian executives are overwhelmingly passionate about their jobs.

A recent survey by the Queen’s School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., found 96 per cent of 400 executives love their jobs.

“I was somewhat surprised that so many actually do love their jobs,” said Julian Barling, professor of business and psychology at the business school. “If you ask 400 people in lower levels of the organization, would you get the same findings? Probably not.”

A major predictor of someone loving his job is the amount of control he has over his work, which increases as someone climbs the executive ranks, said Barling.

“People who love their jobs feel like they have some control over some decisions at work. When people feel they have little control over work, they simply feel more alienated from their work,” he said.

Along with control, Barling and his colleague Kevin Kelloway, a professor of management at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, have found three other factors that influence an employee’s love of the job. The factors are:

• leadership (motivational, inspirational and challenging);

• amount of challenge the job entails (often people who hate their jobs are bored, said Kelloway); and

• the way people are treated in the organization (fair and respectful).

Most employees start out loving their job, mostly because they are learning new things, said Kelloway.

“We all start out that way and then, five years down the road, we don’t all end up that way. What’s happened in the meantime? It’s not the individual, it’s not their personality traits or their characteristics, it’s really their experience and what happens to them in organizations,” said Kelloway.

That means organizations can create a culture where anyone can love his job, said Barling.

“Whether you love your job, it’s not who you are — it’s the kind of situations and conditions you find yourself in,” he said.

Barling and Kelloway’s research has uncovered three components that define loving one’s job. These are passion for the work, social intimacy with someone at work and commitment to the organization.

These three components are also known predictors of superior productivity, so an employee who loves his job is also going to be a more productive employee, said Barling.

In research that looks at employees at all levels of the organization, transformational leadership has a significant impact on whether or not employees love their jobs, said Barling.

“At any level people find themselves in the organization, high quality leadership is, we know, likely to make a real difference.”

Transformational leadership is about lifting up your followers, said Barling. It is about inspiring subordinates to believe in their abilities and to think for themselves.

One of the most important hallmarks of transformational leadership is compassion and genuine concern for employees, said Barling. One of the reasons why so many of the executives surveyed said they loved their jobs could be that 84 per cent of them believe their superiors are somewhat or very concerned about their personal well-being.

Work-life balance is another important factor in ensuring employees are engaged and productive at work. The survey found 84 per cent of respondents think good work-life balance is a must-have for new managers.

“It quite simply works at many different levels,” said Barling. “It’s no longer okay to pretend that work-life balance isn’t important.”

While poor work-life balance, such as being unable to get time off to take a child to the doctor’s, won’t detract from an employee’s passion for his work, it might convince him to look for a job that does support work-life balance, said Kelloway.

“You want those employees who are passionate and motivated and you may lose them over something that in the grand scheme of things may be very trivial from the company’s point of view,” he said.

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