Unhappy at Work? Here's What Creates Real Job Satisfaction

The answers to these 4 questions may explain why your job is dragging you down.

Posted Mar 18, 2019

Bigstock w/ permission
Source: Bigstock w/ permission

For most people work is a very big part of life, but unfortunately, many people aren't very satisfied with what they do. A report from Gallup Inc. (2013), stated that only 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their job. The other 70 percent is either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged. In other words, most people are "checked out." Disengagement not only affects the quality of life of the worker but costs companies as much as $550 billion dollars a year.

A lot of people aren't fully aware of what it is that creates job satisfaction and they can often feel confused about what type of job is really right for them. Satisfaction is a multi-dimensional topic that isn’t always easy to understand because it is different for everyone and it goes well beyond “Do you like your job?” Someone can be satisfied with one aspect of their job but very dissatisfied with another aspect. 

To better understand your own job satisfaction and whether or not your current role has the potential to be truly fulfilling, here are four questions that will help you assess some important dimensions of work satisfaction: 

1)     Does the daily activity of your job engage you?   People tend to feel most engaged by situations that allow them to express natural talents and tendencies. For example, if you are a highly creative person but your job is mostly tactical and operations-driven, you might feel your creative side is being stifled, which can result in a sense of disengagement. Or if you are someone highly driven by new challenges but find your job is repetitive and easy, even if the job pays well, you may feel dissatisfied because your innate talents are not being engaged. 

2)     Does it meet your current and future goals? We all have a sense of who we are in life and who we want to be. When you feel that in your current state you are moving in the direction of where you want to go, that creates a sense of psychological satisfaction and well-being. When you feel stuck or unable to move in the direction of your desired goals, you will feel dissatisfied. If you want to be a partner in a law firm, and you get a job as a law clerk, even if the hours are long and stressful, you may feel very satisfied because you know that your job is helping you move in the direction of what to do with your life. If you are a partner in a law firm and have to work long hours so you can buy the vacation home that you plan to retire in or put your three children through college, you may feel satisfied knowing your job is helping you achieve your personal goals. Job satisfaction is extremely tied to whether we perceive our job to be allowing us to become who we want to be.

3)     Is your job consistent with your values? Most people spend very little time thinking about what their values are and how what they value impacts their job satisfaction, yet your values in life influence every aspect of how you feel about any situation. For example, if you are a school teacher because you value helping young people and shaping the next generation, you may feel quite satisfied with your job even if you don’t make a large income. If you work for a company that dumps toxic chemicals into our environment, but you value preserving our planet for the next generation, you might feel dissatisfied knowing that you are doing work that is inconsistent with your values, even if it pays very well. Research has found that workers who feel their job has a higher calling are among the most satisfied. 

4)     How does it affect your overall quality of life?  If your job is engaging but so demanding that you never have time to spend with your loved ones or do other things that are important to you, or if your co-workers are negative and abusive, or if your commute is over an hour and a half in each direction then it’s possible that you may feel your job is negatively impacting your quality of life. Work is one aspect of our life which, ideally, contributes to your ability to enhance the overall satisfaction with your life.