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Can’t Get No Satisfaction?

A Conference Board survey of 5000 American workers reveals that only 45% are satisfied with their jobs, and all categories and ages of workers show downward trends. These findings are a red flag to employers, who (if they’re smart) will be stepping up their efforts to engage their workforce, ensure new hires are a great fit with the job/company/culture, and find what really works to motivate and delight employees.

But I wonder if this report reveals an even more significant trend about how we view work and career. Once, work was just that – work we did, jobs we held to put food on the table and support our families. A hundred years ago, there was little notion of having a “career” or finding work that fulfilled our personal aspirations. If people were lucky, they found something they liked and were good at. But now there is much societal pressure on people to find meaningful work … to align our personal values with the work we do … to identify our greatest passions and fulfill them through our work.

Perhaps some of this pressure is due to the huge amounts of time and energy we pour into our work. The 9-to-5 is long gone for many people, and if you’re working 8-to-8 you’d better love what you’re doing! And in a culture where coaching has become commonplace and there is enormous emphasis on finding work that fulfills us, it’s easy to feel dissatisfied when our jobs don’t meet these very lofty societal goals.

So maybe workers need to cut themselves some slack – not expect to find total joy and fulfillment at work (at least not every day) – as long as there are pockets of satisfaction and an underlying belief that your work is worthwhile.

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