Sunday, September 13, 2009

Job Satisfaction

Not all the people work for mere financial gains. If it was so, then one can easily measure the level of job satisfaction on a scale of the income they receive from the job. Same time, it would be incorrect to say that money is not an objective for working. The truth is, as always, somewhere in between. While people work for money and many other factors, job satisfaction is not merely dependent on any single factor but on various factors affecting the job.

The factors contributing to job satisfaction varies from person to person. However, I have noticed that while other factors like salary, prestige etc might have a larger say in a person’s decision to accept a particular job, once he lands the job the satisfaction he derives from that job is not much dependent on these factors. To a great extent it comes from the feeling of accomplishment from the job i.e., the feeling at end of the day that he has achieved something.

What amounts to accomplishment in a job again differs from person to person, depending upon the values and aspirations of each individual. The feeling of accomplishment, and therefore satisfaction form the job, could be very high in the case of an honorary worker for an NGO; whereas the same may be much less in the case of a highly paid staff functionary in a large corporation.

I once happened to be a part of an animated office discussion, where it was passionately being debated as to which is the more satisfying job- an investment banker or a pizza delivery boy?

The supporters of the investment bankers put forth that it was very respectable job, glittery, globetrotting, highly paid, most challenging etc. etc. In reply the supporters of the Pizza delivery boys stated the challenge of each delivery where the time taken is the critical factor. If the delivery boy is not able to deliver the pizza within stipulated time, he stands to lose his income. Each delivery order is therefore a challenge to him. The moment he delivers it in time, he gets the highest level of achievement and satisfaction.

For an investment banker, the supporters of pizza delivery boys argued, a closure of a transaction such as a Private Equity funding, a merger or an acquisition takes anywhere between 6 months to 2 years. He will have to toil day and night to reach the closure. But anything he does only takes them towards closure and not the closure itself. The closure is never sure for the variables in these transactions are not in the control of the investment banker who merely acts as an advisor and facilitator in the transaction. It depends on many other players including management, promoters fund managers etc who are involved in the transaction. Finally, when he actually closes it he must have waited as much as 2 years or even more to get that feeling of achievement.

The above argument of the supporters of the Pizza delivery boys made me think. I have been working in the investment banking sector, for over 18 months now. The challenges are many, income is great; yet I often wonder as to what I am doing here. Coming from the Hospital Industry and Legal background, where challenges are more short living yet sense of accomplishment is much swifter, here I don’t even know whether what I do will ever result in any positive outcome. I might struggle hard and prepare something very valuable; yet might end up seeing the result becoming useless for reasons beyond my control.

How do I overcome this lack of accomplishments? I think that is the challenge for every investment banker and for that matter, for many others. Everyone needs something to motivate. Money itself won’t last forever as a motivational factor. Once a person get used to a particular level of income, that income will not do anything much to motivate him. He needs more challenges and results to keep him going. I have tried to tackle this problem in a simplistic way. I try to break down the transaction itself into small tasks for myself. Each small task or goal is then taken up as a challenge and I celebrate its completion. I have noticed that this process has increased the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction for me. Yet I am not sure if this is any match for a pizza delivery boy, who gets to complete a job every half an hour or so.

I am not oblivious of the thoughts of a pizza delivery boy at this stage. I am sure he is seeing the greenery on the other side and wondering how an investment banker can be jealous of him. There lie the paradoxes of human beings and their constantly revised needs. There have been serious studies on what motivates a worker. The Malsow’s theory on hierarchy of human needs, starting from basic physiological needs such as breathing, water, food, rest, clothing etc and growing through, safety needs, Love/ belonging needs, esteem needs and finally reaching the self actualisation needs, has been the one most appealing to me; probably from my own personal experiences.

Based on the level at which an individual is at the moment, the motivational factors for him would definitely differ. Yet one common thread is the satisfaction he can derive from the job. For most people, a satisfying job would mean better motivational level at the job, irrespective of his position in the Maslow’s hierarchy. Therefore, it would be the challenge for every HR manager to make each job a bundle of accomplishments, whether little or huge, so that the person feels more like a pizza delivery boy than an investment banker at the end of the day.

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