What Makes a Job Enjoyable??

Workplace happiness and “jerk bosses” are topics I see popping up on a number of blogs lately. The Fast Company crew had some more great guest hosts in last week to discuss such topics (I really like how they do that) and many readers posted some interesting experiences.

I have been fairly lucky throughout my short career. I started out with a boss that not only served as a great teacher but also became a great friend. My current boss is someone who I both trust and respect tremendously. These are the two metrics I consider most relevant in relationship building. Steve lets me work on projects that challenge me, listens and always makes sure there is never a shortage of cool new things for me to play with. He is probably the only person I know that reads more than I do. He is also the person that is most responsible for my decision to start a weblog. He started his and suggested that it might be something I would enjoy. He was right.

There are a multitude of factors and experiences that affect how one feels about his or her job. Far too many people work jobs that they hate – just because they need the money or never had the opportunity to follow their true passion. Other people may love their job but have a difficult time tolerating office environmental factors such as stress, politics, or mismanagement.

A large part of what discourages employees and makes them hate their jobs can be avoided by effective leadership and management. Management that builds an environment that facilitates communication, growth and relationships.

I have known first hand that a less than perfect job can be made a lot more enjoyable when coupled with great management. The first job I had was by many measurements “less than perfect” but the owner was someone who to this day has taught me more about business and relationships than a text book ever could. I have also witnessed employees hate a job that they have always wanted because of poor management and difficult relationships.

I believe that great leaders are born not bred. (maybe with a few exceptions) Just as I feel there are certain personalities that are made for management – there are those others that should really know to step back. That being said, for those who are in management positions but are seeking ways to improve their effectiveness in their role, I offer this advice:

Lead By Example

Employees respect a leader that not only follows the rules but defines them. A leader that can be seen constantly seeking self improvement and growth is one that will inspire his / her team to do the same. A leader that is seen as the weaker link in the chain will over time, drag down the performance and moral of those around him/her. By leading by example, a leader will in fact raise the bar and set a standard for performance that all team members will respect.

Follow Through on Promises

Gain a reputation for following through on promises and deliverables. Treat team members with the same level of respect as your clients. If you can’t deliver “X” by a certain date, don’t promise that you will. Failure to deliver on promises will not only diminish your team’s respect for you but will also erode their trust. This is dangerous for any organization. Create an atmosphere of honesty and realism. Goals will become easier to attain as a team, when everyone knows where there REAL finish line is.

Be Honest

Honesty is a critical characteristic for any human being in my book but especially in an environment where people need to work together and depend on each other. If you develop a reputation for lying, your team will never respect or trust you. Even worse, some might consider it to be an acceptable behaviour. A team that is operating on a platform of distrust and deception will self-destruct. But probably not before they cause destruction in all other areas of your business.

Build Relationships with People Not Groups

Understand the people you work with. Don’t feel content that you get along ok with the team as a whole. Find out who they really are. Recognize their strengths so that you are better able to use them. Understand weaknesses, not to criticize but to make sure that each team member is operating in an environment in which they feel comfortable and confident. Learn what it takes to motivate each person on your team. What works for one person, may not for another. People are different and therefore have different ways of communicating, responding and growing. Make sure you understand what these are.

Empower and Delegate

These aren’t just trendy words – they are major building blocks in an effective organization. A team should be built out of individuals that are great at what they do and meet a specific mix of requirements to perform a job. If this isn’t the case then you may have a human resources issue that needs to be resolved. More often than not however, employees fail not because of their own competency levels but because they were not given the direction or permission they needed to do their job effectively. When this happens – it is a gross example of mismanagement. Great managers hire people that are smarter than them and teach these people to be better at their job than they are.

Encourage Growth & Learning

Understand what each team member’s long term goals are and help them gain the training and experience they need to achieve them. Remember the more you facilitate their growth and learning, the higher their level of satisfaction will be – thus reducing the likelihood of them seeking the equivalent experience elsewhere.

There are a lot more things that affect relationship building and leadership in an organization. But if you work on the above things, much of the others will come a little more naturally since you will have created an environment full of opportunity for both you and your team members. However if you continuously close the doors of communication and fail to build these critical relationships with your employees – perhaps you should consider alternate positions in your company.

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4 Responses to What Makes a Job Enjoyable??

  1. Great Post Amanda!

    I was struck by a thought as I read this section -
    “Just as I feel there are certain personalities that are made for management – there are those others that should really know to step back.”

    Do you believe that many of these people will not “step back” when they should because they are driven by their egos to seek these management positions and once they have the job they could not stand to let it go?

    I subscribed to your weblog on my blogroll and I am looking forward to reading your posts on a regular basis.


  2. Hi Dewayne, thanks so much for your kind comments. I too enjoyed visiting your blog – thanks for introducing me to it.

    With regards to your question:

    Do you believe that many of these people will not “step back” when they should because they are driven by their egos to seek these management positions and once they have the job they could not stand to let it go?

    I definitely think this is a large part of the problem. Unfortunately too much emphasis on career development and success is focused on one?s upward mobility and control. However in my opinion, a successful career is one that centers on a) one?s passion for what they do and b) the value they bring to the company they work for.

    Some people are unsuited for management due to personality flaws such as insecurity, ego or lack of vision. These are the pointy hair bosses for all you Dilbert readers out there. Unfortunately these are the people that typically fall into the situation you have described. They are often flock to positions of power due to an unfulfilled sense of accomplishment and are difficult to remove once there.

    Other people aren?t suited for management and it?s not necessarily due to weakness but instead valuable strengths that could not be replaced. These are individuals that LOVE what they do and are great at it. This is a person is builds the best damn widget around and offers great value to the company because of it. As long as this is what makes them happy – they should be encouraged and rewarded for doing so.

    Some people just don?t possess a leadership quality within them. This is not necessarily a flaw of course. In fact it?s a huge asset if someone can recognize this in themselves. Perhaps they can not relate well to others, fail at communication or tend to run away from stressful situations. They are people that need to realize that there are other options for them in their career that will bring them greater happiness and fulfillment.

    I think companies need to work with their employees to determine what the best path for them is. People should be encouraged to move towards positions that they are best suited for and will provide them with the greatest sense of accomplishment. I think that all employees should have a 5 year plan. Rewards should be given based on improvements and advancement in the manners that are specific to the individual not solely on just ?moving on up?. If someone wants to build widgets ? let?s make sure they can do so in an environment that makes them most happy and productive.

  3. Michael Walter says:

    I wish I had bosses like that. I work at a large indoor aquatics facility. It is just my temporary jon while I am working my way through university. However, the management there has easily got to be the worse that I have ever encountered. We are doing negotiations now for a new contract, and it is amazing the lengths that they would like to so that they could take advantage of the large number of 16-17 year old kids that are working at their first job.

    Oh well, I can only hope to make things better. After reading your descriptions, my supervisors actually fit none of the positive characteristics that you mentioned.

  4. Wow that’s horrible. Unfortunately it is all too common. Especially in cases where “management” or “supervisors” naturally fall into these positions as a result of seniority or placement rather than actual merit or skill.