How Job Satisfaction Works

Stress, Job Security and Communication
Constantly worrying about a potential layoff is just one of many stress factors that can ruin your happiness with your work.
Constantly worrying about a potential layoff is just one of many stress factors that can ruin your happiness with your work.

Many of you would probably guess that money is the biggest ticket to job satisfaction – but you'd be wrong. After synthesizing and analyzing more than 100 years of research, human resource experts and scientists have learned one thing: How much money we make doesn't really correlate to how happy we are with our job. Yes, compensation does matter, especially when it comes to how motivated we feel, but our on-the-job experience, the intrinsic characteristics of the job (those things such as your daily tasks and workload) matter more. Even if the money is good, the shine of a new salary or bonus wears off, leaving behind the reality of day-to-day work life. Take stress, for example.

Stress at work can come from all different directions. Employees may not have the appropriate skills or personality for the job they're in, for instance, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and, frankly, probably not very good at producing results. And those who may have the skills and ability but lack clear expectations and goals may feel disconnected from the team and unsatisfied. Deadlines, paperwork hassles, broken equipment – we can feel the tension rising throughout the day.

But there's more to job stress than hitting a deadline for your TPS reports. When those due dates turn into impossible deadlines and heavy workloads, the impact makes it difficult not only to meet the employer's expectations and goals, but personal expectations and goals, too – and the pressure to successfully complete assignments can erode both the quality of the in-office environment (all those long work days and skipped breaks add up) and employee work-life balance.

The uncertainty of the job market along with company cost-cutting measures and a growing anger over questionable company ethics introduces distrust and creates a stressed and disillusioned workforce. Fewer than half of all workers report even minimal satisfaction with their work [source: Weber]. Pile on top of that disappearing benefits such as healthcare coverage and sick leave, and we're less happy with our work today than we were about a quarter century ago in the late '80s, when more than 60 percent of employees reported they were satisfied with their job. This is a growing change that human resource experts blame, at least in part, on the disappearing trust and loyalty between employee and employer.

Consider the millennials (born between 1980 and 1999) for instance: Compared to previous generations who would often commit to a company for decades, millennials hold little value in company loyalty and typically move from company to company about every year or so (compared to an overall average employee turnover of 4.4 years in today's job market) [source: Grant]. Their motivation for job satisfaction? Workplace culture and perks – and the bigger and cooler the better. Does your company have a roller hockey rink? Didn't think so. But perks, no matter how big, can only go so far in boosting job satisfaction. For example, you may have a game room at the office, but if it goes unused, what's the point?

Additionally, office relationships are meaningful, both with coworkers and with management. If you feel you have a poor or negative relationship with your coworkers and bosses (especially if you consider your office a hostile work environment) you might feel disrespected, isolated or that you just don't fit in with the culture. As many as half of U.S. workers report conflicts among coworkers at work, favoritism and, not surprisingly, low morale at their workplace [source: Hill]. Work environments where employees feel they have frequent, good communication and a good support system, on the other hand, can make employees feel connected and engaged. Engaged workers are happier workers, with higher productivity rates. With or without a hockey rink.