Is satisfaction overrated?
Q: Is it possible to be successful in a job that you don't like? A business group called the Conference Board got lots of publicity Jan. 5 by claiming worker satisfaction had fallen to its lowest level ever. Their numbers and methodology were questioned by other experts, but the issue of whether there's a link between job satisfaction and success is an interesting one.
This is a touchy subject, with no clear-cut answer, because it's entirely situation-dependent.
The link between job satisfaction and success is strong in some cases and weak in others. It depends on whether the workers' on-the-job productivity comes mostly from a skill or a talent. (If they have neither, you should be dissatisfied with your human resources department!)
Research from the Gallup Institute shows that skill is something you can learn or be taught; it's transferable from person to person. Talent, which is a natural, recurring pattern that can be productively applied, is transferable from situation to situation. We have all seen the chronically untalented working hard to fight their way to the middle.
If skill is what makes you good on the job, then your success is based on something you've learned, and your ability to perform that learned skill suffers when job satisfaction declines. But if you're successful at work because you're doing something you're born to do, you can probably keep that success going even when you're somewhat miserable. That's because your success comes from a natural talent that bobs up to the surface no matter how hard your psychotic employer tries to drag it to the bottom.
Talent is easier to sustain despite circumstances; skill is more susceptible to fluctuations in the environment. If you're really talented, it's possible to hate your boss, have the occasional daydream of setting fire to the building, and still win Employee of the Month. Just know that your coworkers probably dislike you because you're the griper who somehow succeeds despite your morale-crushing attitude. This seems really unfair to all the positive, dedicated, hardworking, skilled people whose performance can plummet when job dissatisfaction sets in. But if you think life is fair, I'm afraid you have more disappointment headed your way.
Dissatisfaction with the job, by the way, is usually the result of leadership. So leaders and managers, take note: Either make sure your people feel valued so they stay satisfied, or make sure you hire really talented people who can get the job done even on days when you've caused them to lose the will to live.
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