I started thinking about what it was that made the janitor so happy in his job and what was the true root of the software manager’s misery. I found my answer in “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job”. It not only describes the causes of job misery, but the double effect it has on company revenue and employee satisfaction. For conscientious employers, there are steps to help decrease the “misery factor” in any job and create a culture that supports job satisfaction and fulfillment no matter where employees are in the “job food chain”. The first step is learning the three signs of job misery:
1. ANONYMITY (Lack of Recognition) – If someone feels that they are nameless and invisible, that their manager has little interest in them as a human being and knows little about their lives, their aspirations and their interests, then they won’t love their job no matter what it is. We all have a need to be understood and appreciated for the qualities that we bring to the job, especially by those in positions of authority.
2. IRRELEVANCE (Lack of Relevance) – Without knowing that their work is linked to the satisfaction of another person or group, an employee will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employee needs to know that their job makes a difference and impacts someone, whether it’s a customer, a co-worker or their boss.
3. “IMMEASUREMENT” (Lack of Rulers or ways to measure success) – If there is no solid way of measuring their own contribution or success, people will lose motivation as they see themselves unable to control their own fate. It is not possible to feel fulfilled if success is determined by the subjective opinions of another person (usually a supervisor). People need to be able to measure their progress and contribution for themselves.
The airport janitor, although doing tasks many would find demeaning, was happy because he was appreciated by his manager and co-workers. He could see how his hard work helped the reputation of his employer. The software manager never received any validation for his hard work; he felt invisible and unappreciated. So although he was making great money, he was unfulfilled and miserable. A remarkable difference in these two examples where the first two signs of a miserable job are not present with the janitor, yet clearly present with the software manager. If the software manager’s supervisor had taken more of an interest in him personally and done a better job of validating his work, he might be as happy as the janitor instead of considering quitting.
These are simple, yet powerful concepts – and best of all, not difficult to implement. By paying more attention to the signs of a miserable job, you will be able to counteract them by implementing the Recognition, Relevance and Rulers that your staff surely craves.
In our next article, we will dig deeper into the economic and personal costs of job misery, after which we’ll explore the benefits of creating an environment that supports job satisfaction. Together we will look at some specific action steps to create a culture where job fulfillment will thrive! In the meantime, take a few moments to objectively evaluate whether Recognition, Relevance and Rulers are alive and kicking in your department. Are any missing? Investing a little time to ensure they are part of your company culture can make a huge difference in the longevity and satisfaction of your employees…and when you think about it, isn’t that what we all want?
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