Making the business of understanding and getting the best from your people a little bit easier”

Rediscover the Love

Attachment to Our Jobs - Where has all the love gone?

How attached are we to our jobs? The issue of job satisfaction is an age old concern of psychologists and social scientists. In the present day it has been given renewed emphasis due to economic circumstances and government spending cuts. A recent survey of approximately 3000 British working people found that many dread going to work and almost half of respondents were fed up with their present job. 20% reported depressive symptoms/feelings during their working day.  To cap it all, over 70% felt that a career change was not an option given labour market insecurity and rising unemployment figures. It would seem that important factors around freedom of choice, self efficacy and general well-being are being undermined/eroded in today’s workforce.

Maybe the survey was not best timed, coinciding with the well known phenomenon of the "January Blues" when people tend to feel more down due to Christmas debts, failing new year’s resolutions, poor weather and dark mornings/evenings. Nevertheless it is a timely reminder to those who work in the 'People' business to bear these things in mind and for those running businesses or in Management and leadership roles, to think about how to re-engage, enthuse and invigorate employees who are feeling disenfranchised or dissatisfied in their current jobs.

So what is it about work that causes people to feel less satisfied, under stimulated or lacking in motivation? Well it can be a multitude of things, but one finding of the survey was that office workers were more likely to be discontent than those actually producing goods or doing more active work. So it would seem that making a more practical and tangible contribution to a product or service is one important aspect of job satisfaction. Whilst it may be difficult in some businesses to link particular roles with tangible outputs, it is usually possible – with a little skill and forethought - to provide employees with clearly defined responsibilities and agree meaningful relevant objectives. People also need to be recognized and valued for their achievements. The importance of targeted praise and positive feedback as part of a healthy management style should never be underestimated. Alongside this, opportunities for development, job enrichment and coaching/mentoring should not be overlooked as these can provide an important sense of progression and fulfillment.

The survey findings also demonstrate the importance of high levels of engagement. People need to understand how their role contributes to the bigger organisation; they need to be consulted and involved in the decisions that affect their jobs and, perhaps, even the future of the business.

Our own research on how to enhance engagement and attachment to job roles has pinpointed the importance of looking after four key elements:

  • the vocational needs and interests of individuals

  • organisational issues relating to the brand, image and status of the employer

  • relationship factors pertaining to who they work with and the quality of interactions

  • rewards linking to benefits and development opportunities.

Our research findings highlight the importance of a focus on Communication, Leadership and Development. Setting out the 'big picture' openly and honestly and providing development support to enable individuals to achieve goals, can have a huge impact on people's motivation, sense of purpose and therefore performance. This holds true - arguably even more so - in organisations where the times ahead are uncertain. While it may be instinctive to 'protect' employees from bad news and possibly hold back development opportunities, the uncertainty and disappointment that this will breed will be far more damaging for both the individual and the organisation in the long term.

Those working alongside individuals experiencing a down turn in their work based ‘vim and vigor’ have a pivotal role to play in helping them to rediscover a sense of energy and purpose in their jobs. Positive interactions can rekindle enjoyment and job satisfaction resulting in more people heading to the workplace with a sense of purposeful optimism rather than dread and foreboding.

Damian Gregory, Business Psychologist – Director NBA Solutions (January 2011)