Why do you work?
Why do you work? Most people will probably tell you it is because they are getting paid to do it, to be honest. No matter what, only few people would work if they did not get paid. But are there really no other reasons as to why we work?
Morten Esmann, Career Consultant in IDA’s Management, Career and Competencies Team, tries to answer this question.
”When we wake up in the morning, it is not the salary that makes us want to go to work. It has no importance for the satisfaction we feel about our work. If the salary is unreasonably low it can lead to lack of personal motivation. But there is no evidence suggesting that a pay raise leads to a continued increase in your job enthusiasm,” he says.
It might be that a pay raise gives you a short-lasting sense of acknowledgement, but it quickly disappears and you need a new pay raise again quickly to feel the same sense of satisfaction
What is the purpose?
Psychologist Barry Schwartz has tried to find out exactly what generates job satisfaction. For instance, he has researched the level of job satisfaction of people working at a hospital.
“Out of all the employees that worked with cleaning, the ones working among the patients were also the ones with the highest job satisfaction. Not only did they clean up at a hospital, they saw the purpose of the cleaning because it was directly connected to the well-being of the patients,” tells Morten Esmann.
You need to see your own little contribution in the full picture of the organisation. You do not need to save lives or drill wells in Africa in order for your work to have purpose.
Find your own purpose or get help
If you find it hard to find a purpose with your work, do not despair. It is not your responsibility alone. Your employer needs to contribute as well.
“We run the risk of stressing ourselves exorbitantly in an eternal and never redeemed chase for purpose, if we put it all on our own shoulders. It is also the responsibility of the employer to create job satisfaction. That can be done, for instance, by making it clear how the job you are doing is important,” says Morten Esmann.
Need more challenges
The Career Consultants in IDA talk to many members who are having doubts with the meaning of what they do. They have doubts if they are the right place. They leave for work uncommitted and come home just as indifferent in the afternoon.
“On top of that many feel that they need more challenges. If you are not challenged, you will come home with a feeling of not having achieved anything. So they lack both job purpose and professional challenges. Once in a while we need to stop up and say. Wow, we achieved something here,” says Morten Esmann adding the fact that we need to get out of our comfort zone as well.
“This is going to be a challenge, but I can do it. When we are in that zone, we will most likely experience a high level of job satisfaction. We don’t need to be there all the time – otherwise we will be stressed – but we often hear people changing their job because they seek professional challenges,” says the Career Consultant.
Hard to achieve the ‘Holy Trinity’
The third thing Barry Schwartz points out is independence in the job. If we experience having enough influence, we feel more purpose and job satisfaction. Responsibility creates enthusiasm.
Still, Morten Esmann reminds us that we should spend too much time chasing the ”Holy Trinity” of job satisfaction – independence in our job, professional challenges and purpose.
“Even though we know what creates job satisfaction, we need to be careful not chasing it on all three parameters. There’s a risk you will never succeed or just not be completely satisfied on all three parameters,” he says.