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Why we all have to work at job satisfaction.

Why we all have to work at job satisfaction

Most of us, at one time or another, have attended the leaving ‘do’ of a boss who reached the top in his or her field yet seemed always to dislike the job and could not wait to retire.

Perhaps it was the academic who thrived on being at the cutting edge of research in her subject but then found her days filled with recruiting students and balancing the budget as head of department. Or it could have been the sports journalist whose passion was following the fortunes of his local soccer team but who then became the office-bound sports editor, planning pages and liaising with agencies, freelancers and photographers. Or maybe we remember the class teacher who was transformed from a source of inspiration to children into an anonymous head teacher who derived little satisfaction from the bureaucracy and targets that now seemed to rule his life.

The simple fact is that achieving a prestigious job in an organization does not necessarily equate with finding professional and personal fulfilment. That is much more likely to result when a person takes a close look at how he or she defines success, then follows his or her own path to that conclusion.

Kaplan (Harvard Business Review, Jul-Aug 2008) argues that, in the last analysis, individuals are responsible for managing their own careers. The task does not fall to their employers, and it is unreasonable to expect bosses to perform it. In order to carry out the task properly, individuals need to know their own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes – and use these to define exactly what success would be for them at a personal level.

A basic requirement of most people is to work in an environment where they feel appreciated. Faragher (Personnel Today, 1 Jul 2008) reports research among 350 HR specialists that reveals positive feedback to be the single biggest factor contributing to their productivity. The author notes that bosses can feel they are being patronising when they offer praise, but it does have a huge impact on motivation. The article offers advice on building an appreciative culture.

Watkin (People Management, 24 Jul 2008), meanwhile, focuses on the leadership style needed by firms in the UK financial services sector facing a market downturn. The author argues that managers must be able to involve the workforce, communicate a vision, coach employees in the right behaviours, give them direction and set the pace.

Such qualities are, of course, desirable in leaders in any economic sector or geographical setting. They appear to be at a particular premium in China. Lane and Pollner (The McKinsey Quarterly, No 3 2008) report that 37% of US enterprises operating in China believe that talent recruitment is their biggest operational problem – greater even than regulatory concerns, bureaucracy, lack of transparency or the infringement of intellectual property rights.

The authors highlight the need to integrate talent management with strategic planning, recruit more people from universities and make greater use of do-it-yourself development. But they warn that the imbalance between business opportunities in China and qualified executives to manage them will get worse before it gets better.