I was catching up with a friend the other day, and as usual the conversation turned to work. He works for a big international consulting firm and gets paid well. However, the job had grown increasingly demanding, with frequent travel, long hours, and difficult clients draining his energy and making his work less enjoyable. Naturally, as his stress levels increased, his health and relationship began to suffer. Without the time or motivation to go the gym, he had gained weight. The constant work demands had also interfered with his ability to be a good partner to his new wife. He had hit a wall and it was forcing him to take a step back and re-evaluate what would make him happy at this stage of his career.
CHASING THE GOLD STANDARD
As we continued to talk, it was no surprise to learn that money was the primary motivating factor behind his choice to become a consultant. He didn't grow up wealthy. His dad worked hard to afford him and his 3 other siblings a modest middle-class lifestyle while his mom stayed at home to take care of the family. And so making enough money to live comfortably became his top priority when choosing a career path. However, embarking on a lucrative career path had led him to create a life that he couldn't enjoy, for he was simply working too hard earning a paycheck.
Most men fall into this trap when making career decisions: equating financial abundance with happiness/fulfillment. Put simply, we buy into the story that money is the measure our success. Influenced by society’s emphasis on and celebration of material wealth and status, we set out on a path to earn at the expense of our happiness, health, and relationships. But the reality is that we are multi-dimensional beings, and money is only one determining factor of a happy and successful career.
MEETING YOUR HIGHER LEVEL NEEDS
If money isn't everything, what else should we be considering on our journey to a fulfilling career? Two theories of human motivation effectively explain what drives us and what factors contribute to a satisfying career. Psychologist Abraham Maslow, well-known for his hierarchy of needs theory, tell us that throughout our lives, humans are motivated to meet a series of needs, starting with the most basic and working our way up to more complex:
1. Physical - Food, air, water
2. Safety - shelter, money
3. Love and Belonging - friends, family, relationships
4. Esteem - respect, recognition, reward
5. Self-Actualization - reaching one's full potential
This five-tiered theory can be applied to our professional aspirations. For example, once a job helps us meet our basic financial needs, we will naturally want to satisfy higher goals in order to feel enriched by what we do. A fulfilling work experience includes having good relationships with colleagues and supervisors, being respected and valued for our contribution, and ultimately, knowing that we are doing something that we care about. This theory points to our innate desire to want to reach our full potential, where we feel like we are doing our best work for a cause that we care about and explains why most people feel unfulfilled by work that only meets their financial needs.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR MOTIVATING FACTORS
According to psychologist Frederick Herzberg's two-factor theory, there are motivating factors that determine job satisfaction, and hygiene factors that contribute to job dissatisfaction. Motivating factors are related to the nature of the work itself; for instance, how meaningful the work is, whether or not we are being recognized for our contribution, to what degree we are involved in decision making and existing opportunities for advancement. Hygiene factors are related to the work environment, such as company policies, working conditions, salary, and benefits. When these factors do not meet our expectations, they contribute to job dissatisfaction but when they are present, they don’t necessarily contribute to job satisfaction. Again, this theory underscores the false assumption that monetary reward is the leading cause of job satisfaction. Yes, we all want to be paid well but as this theory points out there is more to the story.
5 FACTOR HOLISTIC ASSESSMENT
When we evaluate job opportunities, it is in our best interest to take a more holistic approach. Below is a simple assessment based on five factors that you can apply to your current job to see how well it meets all your needs. On each of the five factors, assign a number, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest score and 10 being the highest score. This holistic assessment can help you identify what areas of your job need improvement in order for you to start experiencing more happiness at work.
1. Mentally - Do you find the work intellectually stimulating and challenging?
2. Emotionally - Do you care about what you do? Are you passionate about your work? Is it rewarding?
3. Creatively - Do you get to take part in the planning and decision making of your work? Are there opportunities for you to contribute your thoughts and ideas?
4. Socially - Do you like the people that you work with? Are you proud of your status in the organization? Are you valued for your contributions?
5. Financially - Does it meet your financial needs? Can you live comfortably?
How does your job measure up to your hierarchy of needs? Which needs are being met and which ones are unfulfilled? What does this assessment tell you about what direction your career needs to move towards if you want to experience more fulfillment at work? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you.