Finding Satisfaction in Your Job

Yale management professor Amy Wrzesniewski interviewed the custodial staff of a hospital to gauge their job satisfaction. She chose to interview people working a job generally seen as undesirable to gain an understanding of where job satisfaction comes from. She found that some custodians found no fulfilment in their work, but others did. They had the exact same job, in the exact same place, with the exact same people, but the satisfied workers treated their job differently. 

Professor Wrzesniewski coined the term “job crafting” to explain what these workers did to find fulfilment in a job that may otherwise have none. The satisfied custodians had a different view of their job as a whole and would often do things outside the scope of their regular job duties to make their work feel more enriching. 

How You View Your Job Matters:

Most of the unsatisfied custodians essentially felt like they just mopped floors for a living. They described it as “low-skill” and monotonous. They were motivated to come in solely for a paycheck and benefits, not the work itself. The satisfied custodians reframed their work in a way that highlighted the impact it had on other people. One described herself as a “healer” and stressed the importance of properly sanitizing a hospital room to keep the patients safe. Looking for ways that your job helps others can be a great way to find happiness in your professional life, even if the work itself isn’t always exciting. 

Going the Extra Mile:

The satisfied custodians would also go above and beyond to help patients in addition to performing their regular job duties. They wouldn’t work any extra hours or do other people’s work for them, but they would do things like figure out which cleaning products wouldn’t irritate sensitive patients or talk to coma patients to stimulate their brain activity. They would even befriend patients and stay in contact with them long after they left the hospital. Finding these ways to connect with people while they work made them enjoy a job they might have otherwise found tedious. If your job duties don’t always feel meaningful, maybe there are other ways you can find purpose while on the clock.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t situations where you are right to feel unhappy at your job. A new mindset isn’t a substitute for a proper wage and reasonable hours, and job crafting may not be an option. However, it may be worth it to gain a new perspective on the work you do before you decide that quitting is your only option.

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