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A popular belief is that high earnings are the most important aspect of job satisfaction. However, research shows that although the salary is a significant factor of professional happiness, it is not the key issue in the process of choosing a job. If it is not the money, then what makes us happy at work? Doctor Ewa Jarczewska-Gerc, psychologist from SWPS University, who specializes in psychology of emotions and psychology of motivation, provides the answers.

Organizational Culture and Peer Relationships

Nowadays, more and more companies realize that the level of employee satisfaction impacts productivity. The happier the employees, the more effectively they work. Therefore, corporations focus on creating positive cultures and providing good work environment. So called "Best employers” surveys, conducted among business specialists and managers, indicate that factors, such as work environment, leadership style, and corporate culture are important not only for experienced managers, but also for young people entering the workforce. People also value employer’s reputation. Companies that combine long history, tradition and innovation are most desirable for potential employees. Usually, these organizations pay a lot of attention to internal communications and their management systems. They support employees in professional development and create a respectful corporate culture and a friendly work environment.

The sixth edition of “The Best Employers” study conducted by Antal, a leading Polish recruitment company, which surveyed business specialists and mangers, puts compensation at the 5th place, on the list of the top factors for employee job satisfaction, after the size and the reputation of the company as well as the style of leadership and the company culture.

Love What You Do

Apart from the corporate culture, the reputation, innovation, and the stability of employment, an important element of job satisfaction is what we do, i.e. the work itself. Even if you work for a reputable and innovative corporation, but your daily tasks are less than satisfactory, you lose motivation. If you do not like what you do, then even the best team, the high salary, the benefits, the modern office space and the convenient location become unimportant. The work turns into hardship and it drains your energy. If you are not interested in the tasks, they become boring, tedious and purposeless. And although there are compensating factors, such as the salary, a comfortable office and the benefits, you do not enjoy your daily work.

Sometimes juggling too many responsibilities makes you unhappy and you lose motivation. However, often times the opposite is true. When you are not fully occupied and what is more, the tasks are unimportant and not very interesting, you procrastinate. You start missing deadlines and your effectiveness decreases.

Should you be looking for a new job, if you become bored and disinterested at work? Not necessarily. Often, there are possibilities for change within the current company. It does not have to mean a promotion. A new opportunity might be a lateral move, to a different department, where you can be tasked with different responsibilities. It is similar to the rule of “crop rotation” used in agriculture. By changing your environment and the tasks you have to perform, you renew your interest and enthusiasm in your work. Some people work at the same job for years and are relatively happy. However, the majority becomes disengaged after a while and when it happens, it is time to consider a change.

A change, on the other hand, requires stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. Some people might be afraid to confess to their boss that they are no longer happy at work. Nevertheless, overcoming one’s uneasiness and taking a risk may be advantageous, because it would prevent professional burnout, which is a much more difficult problem to deal with.

Company Values and You

Another motivating factor that increases job satisfaction, is the alignment of personal values with the employer’s values. If the company’s mission is aligned with your own attitudes and values, you are strongly motivated to fulfill your work responsibilities, even if the salary is less than you would expect or if the office is not too comfortable.

However, the value alignment is a double edge sword. If the job requires you to perform duties that are in conflict with your personal values and norms, even the high salary will not ensure your satisfaction. Moreover, you will very quickly experience professional burnout and the continuation of work will become very stressful.

Work Environment and Team Relations

Relationships between coworkers are also a key aspect of job satisfaction. The nicer the work environment, the more keen you are to go to the office. However, there are also some drawbacks to close relationships at work. Especially, in the superior-subordinate relationship. Very close relationships between superiors and subordinates may lead to difficulties when it comes to task delegation. Taking orders from a friend or evaluating a friend’s job performance may pose problems for the parties involved and for the company. It may also result in a friendship breakdown, because the employees involved may express their frustration at the least expected moment. So, the aim is to maintain good, yet professional, relationships with co-workers.

Positive Prioritization

Job satisfaction is a sum of many factors. However, a crucial aspect of wellbeing is a daily engagement in the creation of your own happiness. This active attitude is called positive prioritization. It is important to include moments of joy in your daily routine. These moments might be as simple as having a great cup of coffee or eating a piece of cake. They might also include expressing gratitude towards others or being kind to strangers. The key to happiness is being in control of your life and choosing your experiences. Can you be happy at work? Yes, you can. However, like all good things, job satisfaction requires effort and persistence on your part.


Anna Morawska

About the Author

Assistant Professor Ewa Jarrczewska-Gerc is a psychologist interested in the psychology of motivation, effectiveness, perseverance and in mental simulations. At SWPS University, she teaches psychology of emotions, psychology of motivation, psychology of individual differences, behavioral health, as well as the development of personal and social competencies. She is also a Master’s thesis advisor. In her work she combines theoretical knowledge with practical experience that she has gained while working in a business environment, including market research companies, such as AC Nielsen and Grupa IQS . She brings over 10 years of research experience in a variety of fields, including academic, market and public opinion projects.