Boosting satisfaction with job takes work

Few of us are completely satisfied with our jobs. That dissatisfaction can range from an occasional feeling of unhappiness to a constant feeling of stressful, churning resentment.

Perhaps that is why so many people are constantly on the lookout for a new job. This quest for satisfaction usually takes the form of looking for greener grass rather than systematically improving our own backyards.

Assuming that you have a boss who is concerned about your productivity and motivation, and is considerably more sensitive to your needs than Attila the Hun, there are some simple, straightforward ways to increase your job satisfaction.

One way is to tell him or her what you would like more of, what you want less of and what you want to stay the same on your current job.

As long as it's within your boss's power to change, and it is something you truly believe will make you more satisfied and productive without jeopardizing job results, most bosses will listen. After all, there is something in it for them -- if you are happier and more productive, their job gets easier and they look better.

It sounds simple, but in order for it to work, you will need to do some planning.

The first step is to determine what, specifically, would make you more satisfied. Many people could easily list what they dislike about their jobs, but when you ask them what would satisfy them, their answer is: getting rid of all the things they don't like. Hardly a realistic solution or one that could ever be implemented.

Blessing/White Inc., a career development firm, suggests that you compare your "ideal" job with the one you have now. This will help you be more specific in analyzing different work characteristics and enable you to verbalize what you want.

List on a piece of paper all the characteristics of your ideal job. This list could include things like: opportunity for creativity; contact with the public, chance to broaden skills rather than specialize; high visibility of results' flexible working hours; financial rewards tied to result; frequent and specific feedback on performance; responsibility for making decisions; work projects continuing over long periods; ability to establish own goals, working closely with others.

Be as thorough as possible in defining every aspect of that ideal job, and try to block your current job from your mind. "Higher salary: is a separate issue and should be kept off the list.

Next, analyze how your current job compares. You might use a scale from 1 to 5 -- "5" being highly descriptive of your current job and "1" being not at all descriptive. After rating each characteristic, you will have a profile of your satisfiers and dissatisfies.

If you walk into your boss's office with a long list of all the things you found to be dissatisfying on your job, you will likely get the big boot. Instead, look for three kinds of information to present.

First, find all the things you ranked a "5" and list them under "Things I'd like to stay the same." (This information is as important for your boss to know as what you don't like about your job.)

Next, divide all the "1's" and "2's" between two headings, "Things I'd like more of" and "Things I'd like less of."

Now it's time to plan the discussion with your boss. Keep the list of things you would like to change down to one or two. (Unwinding a scroll that hits the floor is guaranteed to make the best boss feel defensive.) Choose only those characteristics over which you or your boss have some control.

Do some creative thinking beforehand so you have some good ideas regarding how your job can be changed. Consider not only the things you want less of but also the things you want more of. Carefully think through how you can best utilize your talents in these areas. Examine each idea as critically as your boss will.

Make sure you have carefully thought through any apprehensions and objections your boss may have. Be practical, realistic and sensitive to the bottom line. It's also a good idea to determine the benefits of each idea to the company, department, co-workers and your boss.

Use common sense when considering the best time to have your discussion. Most good bosses hold periodic career development discussions with their employees, and this would be the most logical time to share your results and ideas.

The main approach should center on how you can improve your results; it should not be a gripe session or a finger-pointing free-for-all.

In spite of your careful planning for any possible objections, your boss may be a little hesitant to restructure some aspect of your job. If so, suggest a trial period with frequent follow-up meetings to measure the effects of the change.

It's wise to choose relatively "safe" changes for your first discussions. As you prove how successful they are, your boss may be more receptive to bigger changes. Don't expect to get everything you ask for.

If your ideas are reflected, ask for specific reasons. Often there are circumstances you may be unaware of. Rethink our ideas in light of this new information and come up with some new ideas, if at all possible.

Finally, if you feel that most of your job would have to be changed before you'd feel any degree of satisfaction, it may be time to begin looking for greener pastures.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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