Why is job satisfaction so hard to get? Wellness has many dimensions, and job satisfaction is a key component for a healthy balance. However – both wellness and job satisfaction are misunderstood. In this post we will look at why the occupational dimension of wellness is so essential, and how job satisfaction is so much more than feeling ‘happy’ with what you do. Are you thinking of a career change? Is your job driving you insane? By reading this post you can hopefully take some steps to improve what you’re going through — or make the right career move for you. 

Job Satisfaction: The Wellness Dimensions

Before we get into what job satisfaction actually means, let’s understand why wellness is the driving force behind it. 

Wellness is much more than merely physical health, exercise or nutrition. Wellness goals are set by you. It is an individual journey to reach a sense of balance through a step by step process. Wellness flows when body, mind and spirit work together in an energy filled balance. Finding wellness is a matter of becoming aware that one or more dimensions in your life are in sync.

In most cases, we can find an area of your life that is not as fulfilled as it should be. For many, the first thought to that comes to mind is the job. We believe a change of job will make everything else will fall into place.  Are you sure however that it your work that is the problem, and not something else? 

While job satisfaction is the focus of this post, bear in mind that all dimensions of wellness need to be considered as one can masquerade as another one.  Will changing jobs really solve it all?

6 or 9 Dimensions of Wellness?

The wellness dimensions range from 6 to 9 depending on when, and by whom, it was defined. For the most part wellness includes: social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical wellness. Each of these dimensions act and interact in a way that contributes to our own quality of life. For a full run-down of what wellness is read: Wellness Defined: How Well Are You?  

Job satisfaction is part of the occupational dimension. It is an area that is hard to define as emotions, culture, and personal traits can influence the feeling of ‘satisfaction’. Let’s look at how to shed some light on job satisfaction, and why it matters for your career choices. 

Job satisfaction is part of the occupational dimension of wellness, as seen in this picture

Job Satisfaction: What is it? 

At the centre of occupational wellness is the idea that career development is related to one’s attitude about one’s work.

The choice of profession, job satisfaction, career ambitions, and personal performance are all important components of your career progression. Is the drive to change jobs impacted by the job satisfaction factor more than necessary? 

Job Satisfaction Defined

Job satisfaction has been defined as “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experiences“. Others have defined it as simply how content an individual is with his or her job; whether he or she likes the job or not. 

It isn’t however quite as simple as that as many factors impact how we feel about our jobs. Take a look at the images below.  Does one define job satisfaction more than another to you? Which one speaks to you?

Job satisfaction in one definition scribbled on napkin with coffee cup.
Job satisfaction defined as per organisational theory in this checklist.

Job Satisfaction: What Is It Really? 

In organisational theory you will see job satisfaction as dependant on one or several factors: Appreciation, Communication, Co-workers, Fringe benefits, Job conditions, Nature of the work, Organisation/Company (culture), Personal growth, Policies and procedures, Promotion opportunities, Recognition, Security, and Supervision. 

Job satisfaction can also be understood in terms of its relationships with other key factors, such as general well-being, stress at work, control at work, home-work interface, and working conditions. 

The most common denominator is that job satisfaction is subjective, circumstantial, and varies over time.

If you are in the beginning of a career actually getting a job is what matter the most. In mid-life other factors play greatly on your feelings of job happiness such a stress, family, location, and lifestyle. As you reach retirement financial planning and thoughts about what to do next will preoccupy you.

Job satisfaction is framed by time, and impacted by factors that can’t necessarily be attributed to the job itself.

Job Satisfaction: Job Content vs Job Context

In my role as a career coach I have seen too many consider a change of jobs for reasons that have more to do with the context of a given job, than the job content itself. 

Why is it important to distinguish job context versus job content? A good job will create a sense of accomplishment, meet your financial and personal needs, and give you a sense of contribution, belonging and progression prospects. The drive to change jobs can be done for the wrong reasons, and you may end up giving more than you actually gain. Tip: Read: A Good Job – ontargetblog.com

Did you know that the opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction?  Read on to find out why.

Job Dissatisfaction vs Job Satisfaction 

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, humans are said to be driven be motivators. One level has to be achieved, before the next one becomes attractive. On a career ladder, you will want to ensure that your basic physical needs – i.e. salary – are met before you start thinking about workplace autonomy. Tip: Read: Motivation: Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – managementisajourney.com

When it comes to jobs – Fredrick Herzberg theorised in his Motivation to Work that the opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction. Two main streams impact how employees feel about their jobs: 

Job satisfaction defined by happiness feeling in this image with smiling / non-smiling face.
  • Hygiene factors — or Job Context surround the actual job. While they are essential for existence of motivation at a workplace, they do not lead to long-term positive satisfaction. However – if these factors are absent, then they lead to dissatisfaction. Examples include:  Status, job security, salary, paid insurance benefits, interpersonal relationships, work conditions, vacations, physical work conditions, and access to wellness (gym etc).
  • Motivators – or Job Content pertain to the job itself. They also give positive satisfaction and motivate higher performance by the job holder. Employees tend to see these as rewards, and represent psychological needs (Maslow) arising from the conditions of the job itself, such as : Recognition, sense of achievement, growth and promotional opportunities, responsibility, decision making involvement and meaningfulness of work itself. 

The conclusion is that the most common causes of dissatisfaction at work (bad boss, low salary, poor working conditions, lack of status, etc.) are not related to the drivers of satisfaction at work (the work itself, achievement, personal growth, impact, meaning, etc.). 

Eliminating the causes of dissatisfaction doesn’t however lead to satisfaction — it just leads to lack of dissatisfaction. Tip: Read: Job Content and Job Context – ontargetblog.com

Job satisfaction and motivation factors, illustrated by 'Motivation' road sign

Job Satisfaction: The Job Context Trap

If you’re looking to change jobs, is it because of the irregular hours, the crazy boss, lack of fringe benefits or the never-ending email flow? You feel dissatisfied because of the job context.

A new job would most probably be within the same professional field, i.e. the job content would not change dramatically – but the in-house gym, flexible hours and insurance scheme would make you feel satisfied. 

The trap that you’ve just walked into despite all the logic it carries – i.e. better salary, nicer boss, brighter office etc – won’t make you feel that great in the long-term if the real elements of job satisfaction aren’t met too. 

A new job can seem attractive on paper, but what is the job content doesn’t deliver? Did you trade down your level of responsibility? Can you contribute to decision making, and get feel a sense of achievement? The job content (work itself, achievement, personal growth, impact, etc) is ultimately what really motivates us in the long-run. The actual content of your role is also what constitutes the essence of what a real good job is. 

Job satisfaction and job context, illustrated by man running in wheel.

Job Satisfaction: Making The Right Career Choice

Understanding what it is that motivates you in the long-run will help you to make informed choices.

It is easy to fall into the job context trap.  Many do so over and over again. You may not even realise that you’re actually in a good job, until you’ve left it for grass that seems greener.

By knowing how to look at career options, and opportunities, in a new way will enable you to navigate and evaluate your career choices in a different way.

5 Tips For Your Next Career Move

If you are considering a change of jobs – the trigger behind this thought comes from somewhere. Either you don’t have a job, or something in your current employment situation makes you think that a change would be the best thing. 

Before you start searching desperately for the next job – ask yourself a few questions to figure out if a career move is right for you: 

  • Does your CV tell a story? Will a recruiter ask why you tend to move around lot? If the answer is ‘yes’ you may well be caught in a job context trap. Do you get easily swayed by promises of better conditions, insurance schemes and higher salary? While the pay level matters, the level of responsibility and ability to impact will mean more than you think. If you tend to change jobs in 2 year intervals — can it be that you’re not considering the job content aspect enough, and perhaps staying on will be better for your long term career and overall job satisfaction? 
  • Are you constantly upset because of lack of work space, coffee machines, photocopying rules etc? Perhaps a few changes to how you eat, move and sleep could help you concentrate on your actual job – and feel less engaged in other factors? Could it be that your own lifestyle triggers you to lash out? 
  • Are you based in an environment that can be classed as remote, insecure, and far away from home? If the answer is ‘yes’ the context will have to seen in the light of the physical and psychological impact. Stress can bear down on you, and trigger reactions that prevent you from performing in your actual job. I.e the job context impacts job content. The rotation cycle for challenging environments is normally shorter. 2 years in a hardship duty station is often enough before a new location (often in same organisation) is preferable. 
  • Do you feel constrained by the work that you do, and want to expand, take on more responsibility and higher level tasks? The job description will most probably not match what you actually do, as you have started to include more into your job content. This is the time to look for a job switch. 
  • Talking to a career coach can help you straighten out the question marks, assist you in making your CV more compelling and give you methods for launching a job search strategy. A coach can also help you conclude that staying on would be the better course of action. 

Job Satisfaction: The Perfect Job?

Is there such a thing as a perfect job? Very few will say that they have one. There are always issues that will niggle, and aspects that could change. If you look at the bigger picture and longer term you may however avoid changes that lead to regret. 

Getting a clear idea of the the difference between job context and job content will help you evaluate your next career step. You may even decide to stay on, and impact the job context, as your basic job content is good?

As a career coach, I talk to many who explore career moves based on context factors and underestimate the job content – which is actually what should drive the move.  

Depending on where you are in your career ladder any move has to make sense for you and your family. Sometimes we have to endure to achieve a longer term goal. Other times we make choices that make us move onwards, forwards and contribute to a sense of having reached a new level.

The choice to choose is with you. By getting more understanding of what lies behind a choice you will enable yourself to make the right one — hopefully. 

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