Job satisfaction connected with ‘making a difference’ at work
By Brian Kreissl
I read an interesting article the other day about a study that found the biggest predictor of a man’s happiness and wellbeing is job satisfaction. The article, by Leah Fessler, titled “The strongest predictor of men’s well-being isn’t family or health,” published in Quartz at Work, also mentioned the finding that the biggest predictor of job satisfaction among men is whether they feel they are making a difference to their employers.
The article cited the 2018 Harry’s Masculinity Report, sponsored by men’s grooming company Harry’s which partnered with University College London psychologist John Barry, and surveyed 5,000 men in the United States. The study looked at men’s happiness and wellbeing, the values and priorities of American men and how satisfied they were with certain key aspects of their lives such as their careers, mental and physical health, relationships, finances and work-life balance.
The study also found men feel greater job satisfaction when they can use their talents, where they are exposed to diverse perspectives, when they have positive relationships with co-workers and are able to socialize with them, where they are inspired by their colleagues and when their opinions are valued.
Work a major part of our identities
While this study surveyed men only, I tend to believe these findings would apply to everyone. After all, our work lives are such a major part of our identity, and we spend so much of our waking lives at work. If we aren’t happy in our jobs, that is very likely to impact the rest of our lives and our overall health, wellbeing and sense of worth.
This reminds me of my favourite quote about the importance of work to our identities and wellbeing, which funnily enough came from a judge, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Brian Dickson in Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta.), (1987) 1 SCR 313:
“Work is one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life, providing the individual with a means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributory role in society. A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense of identity, self-worth and emotional well-being. Accordingly, the conditions in which a person works are highly significant in shaping the whole compendium of psychological, emotional and physical elements of a person’s dignity and self-respect.”
Employee engagement and belongingness
Employers would therefore do well to recognize the importance of work to people’s health, wealth, sense of wellbeing and place in the world. The findings of the above study go a long way towards fostering employee engagement and a sense of belongingness and inclusion in the workplace. I believe the above factors mentioned from the study are table stakes for having a happy, productive, motivated and engaged workforce.
Employee engagement is an important yet somewhat nebulous concept, which I define as follows:
Employee engagement = job and organizational satisfaction + commitment + motivation + discretionary effort
As I have mentioned in the past, discretionary effort isn’t about working unpaid overtime or anything like that. Rather, it is about caring enough to go the extra mile and not saying something like “That’s not in my job description.”
It may be surprising to some people that job satisfaction and employee engagement are so tied up in people’s overall health and wellbeing. Yet people’s livelihoods often define their personal identities and impact their ability to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families.
Defining ourselves too much on our work
Nevertheless, there is a dark side to defining ourselves too much based on what we do for a living. As we have all seen in recent weeks, with so many large-scale downsizings and plant closures taking place, that identity can easily be taken away through no fault of our own, with little or no notice.
When we allow ourselves to be identified too closely to a job, title or company, that can make job loss or career reinvention even more difficult and traumatic. It can also negatively impact work-life balance and result in people neglecting other important aspects of their lives.
Paradoxically, I believe some of the most successful people have lots of hobbies and interests and an active social life outside work. While work is important to them, they also understand the importance of work-life balance and the concept of “work hard, play hard.”