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March 13, 2018 > Who?s happy at work?

Who?s happy at work?

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

Americans are a happy bunch when it comes to work, according to a February 2018 Bankrate survey. Half of those surveyed rated their jobs an 8 out of a possible 10. Even more strikingly, a significant percentage of Americans seem to love their work. Almost 20 percent of respondents gave their jobs a perfect ten.

What is the secret to happiness at work? The Bankrate survey provides a few tantalizing clues. First, having a higher level of education appears to boost job satisfaction: those with graduate degrees reported the highest level of satisfaction, followed by those with high school, then college degrees. Note, though, that those with high school diplomas had higher job satisfaction ratings than those with college degrees. I suspect this finding might be related to job fit, expectation, and sense of purpose. A college graduate without a sense of purpose but with unrealistic job expectations (and college debt) would likely end up being disappointed and disillusioned with work.

Does money bring job happiness? One would expect that those with high salaries are happier than those who are paid far less. Indeed, the survey found that those who earned more than $80,000 had an average job rating of 7.5. The people on the other end of the pay scale (those who earned less than $30,000) averaged a respectable job rating of 6.6. At first glance, this appears to show that having a higher salary translates to job happiness. However, having a lower salary does not mean that one is doomed to be dissatisfied with work. In fact, almost half of those who earned less than $30,000 reported job satisfaction ratings of 8 or more. It seems puzzling that those who earn less than $30,000 can feel as much or even more job satisfaction than those who earn more than $80,000. Again, my hunch is that career satisfaction is deeply intertwined with job fit, work environment, individual expectations, and a sense of purpose. A high salary will not bring job satisfaction if an individual does not feel a sense of purpose, worth, and fit in the workplace.

The workplace can be an uncomfortable and even discriminatory place for older workers. Thus, one would expect older workers to report lower job satisfaction ratings than younger workers. Surprisingly, those who are older reported more satisfaction than younger workers. Of the different demographic groups surveyed, the Baby Boomers had the highest overall satisfaction (7.2), followed by the Gen X?ers (7.0) and the Millennials (6.9). Finally, some positive news for older workers and for those who are feeling their age! Being older does not equate to misery at work. The exact reverse might be true for many folks?being older might very well mean reaping the rewards of a sense of perspective and purpose gained from experience.

Take heart if you are reading this article and you are not among those who are happy on the job. You are not alone: 11 percent rated their jobs a 3 out of 10. If you are one of those who would give your job situation a failing grade, please consider taking some action to increase your happiness at work. If you?re up for a big move, a switch to a different job or workplace might be a solution. Our current unemployment rate is low, which means that now is a great time to be looking for jobs. It would be worth your while to polish your resume, spiff up your LinkedIn profile, and hit a few ?submit? buttons.

If you?re not ready to change jobs, take an honest look at the reasons behind your job unhappiness. Are there things that you can take charge of or change? Can you advocate more for yourself? How can you make your current job more palatable? Sometimes, simple tweaks can make all the difference in how you perceive your job. Perhaps it?s not realistic for all of us to give our jobs a perfect 10, but you can always strive for a better grade.

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