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Why the opposite of job Satisfaction is not job Dissatisfaction

job satisfaction

Forget the stick. Forget the carrot. And forget the sprouts and chocolates for that matter. It’s not reward or punishment that motivates people. It’s an interesting job where people contribute to the success of the team, that leads to intrinsic motivation, resulting in innovative thinking, and ultimately in job satisfaction and high productivity. Sometimes I wonder which way the arrow points. Does job satisfaction cause high productivity, or does a productive day feel intrinsically satisfying?

In the second part on our series on using incentives to embed and sustain long-term behaviour change, I’ll explore job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction, why they are not antonyms, and how you can make this work for your business.

My favourite trick question is: “What is the opposite of job satisfaction?” It is not job dissatisfaction. The correct answer is “no job satisfaction”. Just the same way as that the opposite of job dissatisfaction is “no job dissatisfaction”. Semantic pedantics you say. But the rationale is that the drivers for job dissatisfaction are very different from the drivers for job satisfaction.

Dissatisfaction is caused by poor salary, company policy, work conditions, and how your direct supervisor treats you. Improve these and you are not automatically satisfied; you’re just less dissatisfied. Satisfaction is driven by an interesting job, personal growth, making a difference, achievement, and recognition. Leave these out, you’re not automatically dissatisfied, you’re just not satisfied.

This is hardly new stuff. Frederick Herzberg wrote the classic Harvard Business Review article with the exasperated title ‘One more time, how do you motivate people’, in the year … 1968. A year of fine vintage (…), but so long ago, you would think that the business world would have learned it by now. Millennials seek out the drivers for job satisfaction with laser focus – maybe that’s why some firms find it hard to attract talented staff and blame the labour shortage.

What to do as a leader?  Create an environment where your people can be successful. How do you make the work meaningful, interesting, and satisfying? By involving your people in the process of improvement: empower them to do PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) on their work. Involve them in the plan. Let them measure their own achievements. Allow them to problem-solve the gaps. Empower them to try solutions. Let them learn. Give them feedback. Basically, it is about giving people a voice and a choice.

What have you done about creating job satisfaction, about effective incentives? In the following weeks, I’ll be sharing examples of leaders in this field in New Zealand. Stay tuned and contribute, we’d love to hear from you.

 

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People