Nine out of ten (90%) employees are content with their current jobs, although 41% are only "somewhat satisfied" according to a survey of ADP. This means that 10% go to work feeling dissatisfied. Is it the nature of the work, the managers, oneself, or a combination of factors, and what can be done about it?
Causes of Employee Discontent
No job is without its challenges, but according to a report by ADP, the primary reasons for employee dissatisfaction are compensation, working conditions, and workload.
The report indicates that 65% of the respondents would work more hours for a higher salary, and 67% experienced tremendous work pressure. Additionally, 15% face daily stress and 53% believe their performance suffers under work-related pressure.
The emphasis on personal well-being and private life is also evident in the report. However, it's worth noting that approximately 30% of the 32,924 respondents are classified as "flex workers."
Flex workers have a weaker connection to the companies they work for and place less importance on finding meaning in their work. Contrarily, organizations like Zappos and many others highlight that meaningful work and a healthy work-life balance are the primary factors contributing to employee satisfaction. Moreover, this approach helps in reducing stress, even in high-pressure environments.
What Can You Do When You're Dissatisfied with Your Job?
Of course, if you're dissatisfied with your job, you can choose to leave and search for a new one. However, it is wiser to first examine the underlying cause. After all, there's a chance that you might encounter the same issues in a different job.
Start by Looking Within Yourself
Recently, a customer called seeking help with her stress and occasional panic attacks. Normally, I only coach entrepreneurs and higher management, but I made an exception in this case.
Her story was full of inconsistencies and blame towards the company she worked for, leading me to suspect that there was more at play than just high work pressure. It's worth mentioning that she was working from a tropical island, pursuing a career in a field she was passionate about, and received fairly good compensation.
Her accusations were directed at the management's unreliability, incapable colleagues, and overwhelming workload. However, it soon became evident that things were not as she perceived them.
In short, after two sessions, she realized that the management was not at all unreliable. The issue was that she hadn't communicated her wishes clearly enough, and some of the agreements she believed were in place did not exist at all. She had fabricated these agreements in her mind, thinking that the management understood her. With just one phone call to the management, clear agreements were made, and she received all the support she asked for.
While the high workload was indeed present, she also played a significant role in contributing to it. Due to her over-responsibility, she took on more than she could handle—something that no one had asked for! Since she worked remotely and had not clearly expressed the support she required, the management was unaware of her needs. By working on her perfectionism, reducing her over-responsibility, and establishing appropriate support, this problem was also swiftly resolved.
Lastly, she struggled with incapable colleagues. In every organization, there are people who perform their tasks better and with more dedication than others. When someone is stressed and working under high pressure, they may be greatly affected by someone who is less committed and enthusiastic. This tension in their relationship doesn't improve the situation. By addressing the aforementioned issues, this "problem" was also eliminated.
Conclusion: Before seeking a new job, first consider whether there is something you can change within yourself. In this case, the dissatisfaction had nothing to do with the company and everything to do with the individual.
Seeing Things from a Different Perspective
In principle, I would never choose to do work that I dislike or work under conditions that do not suit me. However, sometimes it's the best option available.
Before I founded my advertising agency in 1995, I worked as an independent house painter. I had a dream of creating a beautifully designed digital city guide with 360-degree panoramic photography, but I had no knowledge in that field.
As a self-employed painter, I started work at 7:00 AM and continued until 3:30 PM. After that, I usually had to prepare quotes or buy materials, leaving me with little time to build a network.
Now, you must understand that I specialize in intricate painting work. I restored the wooden windows and doors of old Amsterdam canal houses to their former glory and provided luxurious homes with the best paintwork. The last thing I wanted was to paint concrete bridges or lamp posts, which anyone could do and had little to do with the art of painting.
However, I chose to take a job at a company that solely focused on this kind of work. I had no responsibility, and after 3:00 PM, I had all the time to build my network.
By seeing the job from a different perspective - namely, as an opportunity to create space and time to do what I truly wanted - I could easily handle painting concrete structures.
Addressing Problems Openly and Firmly
A friend of mine is currently responsible for HR within a company with over 600 employees on an interim basis. During a lunch conversation, she mentioned the high work pressure and how many people were spontaneously resigning, either overworked or burnt out, despite working an average of 10-hour workdays for months.
While I am not against hard work, if this continues for more than a week or two, I am the first to take action. According to her, the atmosphere was tense, and no one felt they could do anything about it - not even her.
In my belief, as the head of HR, you are undoubtedly responsible for the well-being of all employees. As an HR representative, you are in contact with everyone and can form a united front. There is always a solution, but sometimes you need to push for it. If the management takes no action, you can join forces with your colleagues and make a statement. This doesn't necessarily have to result in a strike, but at the very least, you can submit a jointly signed declaration with potential solutions. If that doesn't help, you can always explore other options.
A Practical Example: In 2010, a colleague of mine really wanted to take on a software development project for a major telecom provider. It was beyond the scope of what we normally did, but he was deeply passionate about it, as were his colleagues. The problem was that we depended on various third-party software suppliers who were being directed by the client, and there was a strict deadline and a budget cap of around 1.5 million Euros.
The project was supposed to take about three months and was overseen by my former business partner. When I came to the office one Sunday after eight weeks, I saw 20 pale developers diligently working. They had worked on the previous Saturday as well, and their exhaustion was evident.
I immediately called my business partner, who explained that due to the third-party software suppliers' actions, we had to work with new specifications and, with just one week remaining, we had only completed 40% of the work. That's why they had worked 12 hours a day for the past three weeks, and they still had to work just as hard.
On Monday, I arranged a meeting with the telecom provider and presented them with a choice: either give us an additional six months for development and one million euros extra budget or take the project back and claim us with all its consequences. In the latter case, it would have meant bankruptcy for us.
The result was that we were given six extra months to work under normal conditions, and we delivered a fantastic product that is still in use to this day.
Know what you want to do and where your passion lies.
In the past 30 years, I have seen so many people working in the wrong positions at various companies.
For instance, there was a man who worked as a truck driver at a local waste management company. He loved it because from behind the wheel, he could keep an eye on whether the waste was being collected properly along the streets. He was a bit of a control freak and enjoyed everything going perfectly.
One day, it was decided that he needed to come to the office to handle administrative tasks due to a capacity shortage. Soon, he started arguing with everyone and became increasingly stressed. The management had only considered what was needed internally, and he had agreed to come and help out of loyalty to the company. He didn't express that he was not happy at all.
An attentive HR employee noticed that he was not feeling well and had a conversation with him about why he was constantly arguing with everyone. She quickly realized that he wanted things to be done correctly, and that was often not the case. After discussing it, they decided to transfer him to the quality control department. Now, several years later, he is still working there and is considered one of the happiest and most valued colleagues in the entire company.
People have an innate passion for something. Find that passion within yourself or in someone else, and work becomes a hobby.