I recently sat down with the director of a large corporate support facility. The center employs several thousand professionals who handle contracts, security, HR, procurement, and more for the company’s operations throughout the world.
This executive is doing a great job leading the organization, and the employees generally seemed happy with their work. I asked him to explain what he attributed it to.
He replied that his goal was to try to make sure that each job was a good match for each person. To do this, he has the employees ask themselves four essential questions:
- Do I enjoy my coworkers?
- Do I enjoy what I am doing?
- Is my boss supportive of me?
- When the day is over, do I feel good about where I work and what I do there?
This caught my attention because of how closely these questions coincide with what I have learned in over 40 years of studying employee satisfaction and engagement. Each question answers a different individual need. Having a positive response to all of them paves the way for a happy work situation.
Let’s look at each of the four questions. As you read them, consider your own situation:
1. Do I enjoy my co-workers?
The effect that co-workers often have on one another is very significant if not profound. In fact, this influence may be even greater than the influence supervisors have. Co-workers affect each other in both favorable and unfavorable ways. They can either support and benefit each other or can be dangerously divisive and antagonistic.
A recent Robert Half study of 12,000 working professionals found that employees who have good relationships with their co-workers are “2.5 times more likely to be happy on the job than those who don’t get along well with their peers,” A Gallup poll found that “close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%.”
Co-worker associations tend to be some of the most important and influential relationships we have on a day-to-day basis. Our co-workers usually are the people we spend the most time with in a typical work week. As a result, they have a major impact on our attitude and mood that we take home from work. If the relationships are negative, we tend to have feelings of being more pessimistic, moody, unhappy, and discouraged. When we dislike coworkers and feel negative about them, we usually dread going into work. However, when we enjoy our fellow employees, we look forward to seeing them in the office or shop floor and being with them working on a project together, or interacting with them in meetings. They can often soften the blow of bad news or share a burden, and we are more comfortable around them. We are happier, more satisfied, and willing to cooperate and be optimistic. A positive co-worker situation contributes to a healthy and productive work environment.
2. Do I enjoy what I am doing?
A recent Mercer study of 1,800 HR leaders, and 5,000-plus employees across 21 industries and 44 countries around the world found that compensation, schedule, and working conditions are important. But the more important element is working with a purpose! Feeling purposeful is essential in influencing workplace satisfaction. It boosts employee motivation, productivity, morale, and overall job satisfaction.
My own experience as a coach and organizational consultant reinforces and adds to the Mercer study by emphasizing two major elements associated with Question #2. One is the importance of working in a culture of trust. The other is having the genuine feeling that what you are doing at work truly makes a difference.
3. Is my boss supportive of me?
It’s entirely possible to enjoy your coworkers and love what you do, but still, hate your job because of your boss. Gallup recently published a book called. “It’s the Manager” based on years of research they have conducted in the areas of employee engagement and employee experience. What they found is that even when all the other criteria for a happy, engaged employee were met it could all be undone by a single manager. A bad boss can hurt employee engagement, negatively impact employee health, and cause a reduction in overall productivity. When we have a boss who we trust, who champions our ideas, and backs us up when our work is questioned, then we have greatly increased the chances of really enjoying our work.
Your boss is not supposed to be perfect, nor be the best boss you have ever had. They just need to make you feel as if you make a positive difference, that you add value each day. A smile, sharing the credit, and occasional recognition goes a long way.
4. When the day is over, do I feel good about where I work and what I do there?
The Robert Half study referenced above found that “employees who are proud of their organizations are three times more likely to be happy at work”. The research concluded that “this goes beyond pride in your actual output, but pride in your company and what it stands for.” Is your company involved in community service? Does it have a credible reputation of fairness and commitment to the betterment of society? These actions will directly influence the pride and satisfaction you feel about where you work and what you do there.
A sign of feeling good about where you work is if you brag about it at a social gathering; telling others how much you enjoy working there. This is especially true if you feel that your value system matches your organization’s values.
This question also speaks to your sense of ethics and justice. Sometimes we may be asked to do something we know is wrong in the course of our work. When that happens it’s a clear indicator that something needs to change. Most of the time, however, the values that become compromised are smaller and exist in more of a gray area. If you leave work at the end of the day and can say with certainty that your ethics or values were not compromised, then you likely have a job that is a good match for you.
Answering favorably to one of these four questions about your job is a singular positive in your favor. However, all four questions must be answered positively in order for you to feel as though you and your job are a good match. If, after reading this article, you realize some of the four are answered unfavorably then you can focus on meeting that need--either in your current position or moving to another company.
The more positive the answers are to these four questions, the more engaged and satisfied you will tend to be, which will directly impact your job performance. This will help you meet your goal of being in a happy work environment.
- As I look at my own job situation, do I generally answer favorably to each of these four questions?
- When I am coaching my employees or other work associates, do I review with them each of these four questions to help them gain insights into their attitudes and commitment toward the job they are asked to do?
- As a boss, or co-worker to others, do I realize the huge impact I have on their attitudes that directly affect their work and performance?