Seth Kahan
Author, consultant

Seth Kahan

Change expert and author who has advised executives in 50-plus organizations, including Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps and NASA. He can be reached at


Success without satisfaction

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.

Job satisfaction is absolutely independent of success.

For example, success can be about climbing the corporate ladder. In that case, you may find yourself working very hard to excel in a job you really don't care about other than as a stepping stone. Or, your current job may be primarily a way to make ends meet. Then, personal satisfaction is not important to doing well. You can still succeed, without much personal satisfaction.

Here's the kicker, though. Most supervisors miss out on how to make a job satisfying and there is no doubt that the quality of the work suffers as a result. Research has born out that carrots and sticks as job motivators work only in a very narrow set of circumstances, yet they continue to be used heavily. Often they even sabotage the results.

For a great read on this subject, see Dan Pink's new book, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us". I saw Pink recently and here is something he said: "Traditional management is very good at getting compliance, but terrible at getting engagement. It is interesting to note that while we see engagement plummeting in the workplace, we see that it is rising elsewhere, for example, in volunteer activities."

While the average worker may not need need job satisfaction in order to succeed, the average leader needs to provide it - otherwise he or she may fail as a leader.

By Seth Kahan  |  January 11, 2010; 12:01 PM ET  | Category:  satisfaction Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Improving the odds | Next: It's your choice

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company