What makes for a “good job”?

Coworkers Mídias SociaisMy daughter is an avid player of the iPhone/iPad game “Tiny Tower.”  The object of the game is to make your tower as tall as possible, all the while managing the businesses and apartments within and seeing to the happiness of your residents or “bitizens.”  I think it says something about our recessionary world that the way to make your bitizens happy (complete with smiley faces) is to put them into their “dream job” – whether it is to work in a bakery, a dental office, or a tattoo parlour.  Consider that for a moment – the way to happiness isn’t through leisure, family and loving relationships, knowledge or spiritual enlightenment, but through having the right job.  (Another perspective on “Tiny Tower” appeared here, on the “PopMatters” website.)

Most of us spend a lot of time at work, and there is no doubt what happens at work contributes to our sense of well-being.  And most of us recognize that we’re better suited to (and would be happier doing) certain jobs rather than others.  But a recent study suggests that what makes us happy at work is not always what we think it is.  Thomas Cornelissen examined the data collected by the German Socio-Economic Panel, a household-based survey of the German population which started in 1984 and has now surveyed over 20,000 adults.  He found that the three most important factors in job satisfaction were (in this order)

  • Relations with colleagues and supervisors
  • Task diversity
  • Job security

Cornelissen’s article, “The interaction of job satisfaction, job search, and job changes. An empirical investigation with German panel data” appeared in volume 10, no. 3 of the Journal of Happiness Studies. (He also found that lack of job satisfaction leads to the probability of job search, which in turn leads to increased likelihood of job change, especially when labour market conditions are favourable.  But that is what you would expect, isn’t it?)

The lessons for managers seem clear, if not always easy or obvious to put into practice.  Employees will be happier and will be more likely to stay on the job if their relations with one another and with management are good.  And how to help develop and maintain those good relations?  Make sure that your employees can talk to you.  Understand the cost of workplace strife.  And when conflicts arise, consider workplace mediation .