making any decisions, let's ask an important question: How important
is job satisfaction anyway? |
Of course, good leaders want their people to be reasonably happy,
but how important is it, really, that they be satisfied? This may
sound a bit callous, but I've never been particularly captivated by
the idea of managers making job satisfaction a high-priority goal.
I have a few reasons for my skepticism:
1. I'm not sure it's possible to satisfy people. Complete satisfaction
just isn't part of the human condition. We are a restless and ambitious
2. I'm not sure it's desirable to satisfy people. Satisfaction
doesn't guarantee productivity. In fact, it probably does just the
opposite. Nor does satisfaction spark creativity. There's a reason
why the old saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention," rather
than, "Abundance is the mother of invention." I've also never heard
people suggest that big paychecks and job security were the source
of their group's outstanding performance.
3. The range of things we measure to gauge job satisfaction
distracts from what's really important and distorts the true state
of our organizations. I've observed that there are a few things that
are critical for technical people's happiness: cool work, fair pay,
good relationships and a reasonable belief that the future holds more
of the same. Most of the things we measure are important only if these
primary things are missing, in which case there's already a problem.
So, what should you do about a dissatisfied workforce? From the rants
above, you might think that my answer would be that you should do
nothing, but that's not exactly the case. It's not that workers' dissatisfaction
is unimportant, but alleviating it shouldn't be your primary focus.
I suggest that you look instead at their motivation, which I believe
has much more of a direct impact on what they can achieve than their
satisfaction does and is also much more important for your collective
success. People who are motivated are focused on their work more than
on their personal satisfaction. Motivated teams can operate at many
levels of job satisfaction. Motivation can also be a great source
of job satisfaction.
So, given all the budgetary constraints that most of us work under
today, what can you do to help motivate your staff? Here are a couple
of simple suggestions that don't cost much.
First, select wisely. This is the most important thing you can do
to ensure that you've got highly motivated project teams. If you want
to have a motivated team, pick people to be on the team who are motivated
to be on it. Take a minute to think about that, because when most
of us are assigning people to projects, we do a quick assessment based
on all the wrong questions. Usually managers choose based on who's
available, who's got the skills and who's done something just like
this before. They're all good criteria, but none of them is likely
to ensure that you've got a motivated team. Try looking also at who
wants to be on this project; who wants to learn a new technology,
business or project role; and who would want to work with the people
who have already been selected for the team.
Second, engage the staff in improving its own motivation. No matter
how busy everyone is, you should be able to carve out just a little
time to encourage discussions about what would improve conditions.
Try taking small groups of staffers to lunch once a week to discuss
their perspectives on how things are going. At worst, they'll know
that you're interested in their concerns and points of view. You'll
also get the chance to explain the constraints of the situation. At
best, you'll get some great ideas that can be implemented to actually
make a difference and improve satisfaction, motivation and productivity.
When faced with a disaffected workforce, remember that the opposite
of dissatisfaction isn't satisfaction, but motivation. If you want
your employees to be productive, engaged, excited about coming to
work and likely to stick around when job prospects improve, spend
more time thinking about how to motivate them rather than how to satisfy
(This article originally appeared in Computerworld and Computerworld
Australia as part of the 2003 Job Satisfaction Survey Edition. To
explore the rest of the survey articles and data click here.)
About the Author:
Paul Glen is the author of "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead
People Who Deliver Technology" (Jossey Bass Pfeiffer, 2002) and Principal
of C2 Consulting. C2 Consulting helps clients build effective technology
organizations. Paul Glen regularly speaks for corporations and national
associations across North America. For more information go to http://www.c2-consulting.com.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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