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"Do Your Employees Have Job Satisfaction?"

By Mary A. Brandon
“If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, if you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime…”

If money is not what creates job satisfaction then what does and how can we realistically impact job satisfaction as employers? As diverse as our workers are expected to be, how can we possibly impact what satisfaction means to all of them? How do we keep our work force healthy, satisfied, motivated, productive and loyal to us? The answer is, “We don’t.”

You cannot teach a man anything you can only help him find it for himself” Galileo

If you give an employee ‘a fish’ or something like incentive programs, they more than likely will continue to look to you for another and another and eventually they will get picky about what kind of ‘fish’ it is, the timing of the delivery of the ‘fish’, the manner in which you deliver it etc. In other words, you the employer will be constantly running trying to keep up with a multitude of expectations and dissatisfactions, expending a ton of energy that could be used elsewhere in your organization.

I am sure that this last scenario may sound familiar to many of you as you have found yourself doing just that, running trying to keep up with someone else’s perceived needs. The work place has often been put in the position of benevolent parent who will take care of and provide for it’s “children,” a belief that has rooted the idea of “job security.” This relationship has served our community in the past, but the times they already have been “a changin’.” The demand for innovation, problem solving, fulfillment of multiple “hat” jobs is here, there is no real time to ‘do it’ for someone or anyone else. We all need to be prepared to take the lead. Now more than ever we cannot take for granted what another individual needs or wants, as in the past might have been easily understood as just a paycheck. We culturally have far too many choices available to make this kind of assumption.

Conversely, employers, supervisors and human resource managers still search for means to control the human element of work. If employers cannot invoke pleasure and provide satisfaction to employees thus controlling the work environment, they can always institute disciplinary actions to create forced job satisfaction. Unfortunately consequences tend to mean little to human beings, adult or child, unless they are natural and direct from the cause as well as immediate in their response. What disciplinary action does is reinforce the role of parent to the employer, who then becomes not only responsible for job satisfaction and dissatisfaction but now also self-control.

To teach someone to fish is to aide them in understanding the tools used (what rod and reel, line, lures,,,,,OR, a mind, body, time, ideas), the goal that is desired (a perch, a swordfish, a steelhead …..OR socializing with co-workers, increasing self confidence and self esteem, becoming financially solvent), the needs that are indicated by the goal (get food, get a trophy, brag, gain confidence, catch and release……OR to follow a family tradition, to utilize skills, to have control, to be social, to get acceptance, to get paid….) a plan to meet that specific goal (go out at night, take a boat, go to the ocean…OR to work at this company, to perform as a manager, to be a nurse) and experience to meet the goal (casting, standing on a boat, taking a hook out….OR having previous education and experience as well as expertise in medicine, technology etc. ……).

Employers often take for granted or assume that an individual employees goals are similar to each other’s in similar positions and so probably are their needs. And even more frequently than a person’s needs being assumed, is that they are over looked all together by everyone including the person themselves.

We often attempt to educate our employees on the “ins and outs” of a company, giving them detailed information of how decisions are made or giving them direct responsibility over actions to get them more involved but we have not encouraged them to address why they are doing the work they are doing in the first place and why they are continuing. It is important to teach people to fish for why they would want to fish to begin with. We can get carried away on bait and lures, equipment and different types of fish just as we do with various incentive programs, or motivational programs of the week, guessing what employees want assuming what would satisfy them, spending all kinds of time and money without actually teaching them to teach themselves their own process for obtaining and maintaining satisfaction. The fishing that we are referring to is to encourage employees to ask themselves the right questions. Questions such as: Why am I doing this? Is it because I need a paycheck to pay bills, is it because it is the only thing I think that I can do, perhaps it is because everyone else in my town works here, or it is the only thing that I am trained to do?

To learn to ask these questions is the first step, to find the answers the next. Often people just need to be posed the question and ultimately ask themselves, which will generally inspire an answer to surface.

Understanding one’s own satisfaction is to be able to fish until you hook that which it is that you are after, if you know how to fish and what you are fishing for with some expertise you will be more apt to really make a catch. In other words, the way to job satisfaction is to encourage a person to do an action (self motivation) by learning about their goals (desires and needs) and assist them by either providing the tools for planning or directing them to them. When an individual knows what satisfies them and what doesn’t, they are more apt to take responsibility to obtain that which does satisfy them. If what satisfies an employee is not in alignment with their organization, they have the responsibility and more than likely the will, to move on.

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