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What makes us feel good about our jobs?

What makes you feel good about work?

There’s a crazy idea out there that what people want from work is lots of money – which is why bankers and CEOs get such big bonuses.

But if you’re looking for jobs on EthicalJobs.com.au, then you’ve probably got the idea that work with meaning – work that helps to make the world a better place – is what makes you feel really good doing your job.

There’s a fascinating article from TED – the Technology/Entertainment/Design Conference megalith which you must have been living under a rock to have not heard of – that explores this issue and (surprise!) comes to this same conclusion – among others.

Actually, the article identifies seven different areas that affect how we feel about the work we do. Two of these relate to knowing that our work is helping others: apparently, research shows that knowing that others benefit from our work makes us more driven to succeed, even though we might not even realise it! (Slightly less interestingly, work that helps others also make us behave more “prosocially” or more likely to follow the rules).

Here’s some of the research from the TED Blog:

The Study: As described in a recent New York Times Magazine profile, psychologist Adam Grant led a study at a University of Michigan fundraising call center in which  student who had benefited from the center’s scholarship fundraising efforts spoke to the callers for 10 minutes.

The Results: A month later, the callers were spending 142 percent more time on the phone than before, and revenues had increased by 171 percent, according to the Times. But the callers denied the scholarship students’ visit had impacted them.

The Upshot: “It was almost as if the good feelings had bypassed the callers’ conscious cognitive processes and gone straight to a more subconscious source of motivation,” the Times reports. “They were more driven to succeed, even if they could not pinpoint the trigger for that drive.”

If you’re currently working in an unsatisfying, corporate job, this might explain how you feel about your job. And if you’re already working in an ethical job, it’s obviously worth regularly touching base with the people (or places) that your organisation affects!

The article also identifies some other elements of jobs that affect positively or negatively how we feel about them, including:

  • Seeing the fruits of our labor may make us more productive
  • The less appreciated we feel our work is, the more money we want to do it
  • The harder a project is, the prouder we feel of it
  • Positive reinforcement about our abilities may increase performance
  • Images that trigger positive emotions may actually help us focus

You can get the full story here.

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