In the previous column, you read about interventions that both the employee and organizations can use to proactively increase job satisfaction and motivation from the lens that dissatisfaction occurs when expectations are unmet and when the job or organization is not a good fit for the employee.
These interventions should take place before or on the first date, meaning the interview. However, sometimes it is unclear during the first date or even through the honeymoon that we may not find satisfaction in our jobs. Marinating motivation and increasing job satisfaction requires both the employer and the employee to work together to achieve a culture that promotes genuine appreciation for achievements, clear and consistent feedback, autonomy, growth opportunities and strategic communication.
As an employee, choosing to remain miserable in a situation is not the fault of the company or organization. We all possess the power to choose our attitudes and behaviors that represent ourselves daily. One slight adjustment to make that can help this fresh perspective come easier is avoiding engaging coworkers who are negative about their jobs.
When you interact with these individuals, change the conversation topic or politely exit the conversation. If you do not feel bold enough to control the dialogue in this manner, seek comrades with better attitudes so that you will not have to. Although we cannot shut out all sources of negativity in our lives, we can reduce the input, which will subsequently reduce the output of negativity that you might feel or pass on.
Even the most intuitive leaders and managers are not mind readers. When you begin to feel unmotivated or experience dissatisfaction, you must speak up and seek support. Perception is the crux of conflict. Conflict occurs when one individual perceives that another individual transgressed in some way. Perceptions and feelings of any employee should never be trivialized, for they are valid to that employee.
If you find yourself in a situation where you perceive that you are not being treated fairly or are underappreciated, speak up. Use logic when you approach your supervisor and try to use “I” statements with suitable examples. For example, rather than playing the blame game and telling your manager that it is their fault that you are unhappy, you might try to present your feelings to them by saying that you feel discouraged when you do not receive recognition for good work because it causes you to feel insecure or doubtful about the quality of your work.
Approaching the conversation with a possible solution might also help your supervisor adjust their behavior. In this example, you might ask your supervisor if you can create an employee recognition program. This will reduce some of the work that falls onto the supervisor and make it easier for them to meet your needs.
From an organizational perspective, re-orienting organizational culture to understand the needs of the whole employee as a person rather than a commodity can change the work experience for all employees. Having a genuine appreciation for achievements, clear and consistent feedback, autonomy, growth opportunities and strategic communication will increase employee engagement.
A 2017 study from Gallup reported that fewer than 13% of individuals felt engaged at work. Engagement reaches far beyond assigning enjoyable tasks. Engaging activities allow for individuals to exercise their strengths. When we are immersed in environments or work that brings out the best in us, we will likely do our best work. Most of us want to be good at what we do and have the freedom to excel and grow within that space.
To help foster engagement, employers can allow for more job crafting, in which individuals customize or redesign their tasks, procedures or interactions at work. This little freedom can create a true sense of autonomy and ownership.
Likewise, the employee should feel that the work is meaningful. Meaning has been linked to increased motivation, performance and engagement. When task assignments and objectives are clear and tied into a greater organizational goal, it is easier for employees to find intrinsic and extrinsic value in their daily tasks.
American psychologist Frederick Herzberg proposed a two-factor theory in which categories of factors work independently of one another but must balance to achieve and maintain job satisfaction. Factors related to the actual work or hygienic factors are equally crucial to motivation factors. An employer must offer recognition and growth but must also have a fair salary and reasonable policies.
Never stated better than by the infamous French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre that a “man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” This is one of the most encouraging statements that I have ever encountered, as it highlights our ability to change our actions and reactions to create a more positive work and life experience.
In the next column, I will discuss recognizing when your professional relationship might be toxic and when it is time to leave gracefully.
CHELSEA SCHLARBAUM is an armature alienist extraordinaire with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on human motivation from the University of Arizona and is currently studying Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Grand Canyon University. She can be reached at