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Feeling Dread at Work? Focus on Your Performance

career satisfaction impact job dissatisfaction job satisfaction performance satisfaction Apr 10, 2023

Ever have that sneaky feeling your boss wasn’t satisfied with your performance? 

Maybe it didn’t make sense because you worked really hard. But despite your hard work, interactions with your customers weren’t always great. They seemed to be expecting something that you didn’t feel equipped and/or empowered to give them. Maybe there were things you wanted to be doing in your job, but you couldn’t find the time for them because you were so busy handling emergent issues.

Every month your boss asked you to put together some accomplishments. You racked your brain… you’d been so busy, working extra hours, but most of what you did didn’t really fit as an accomplishment: putting out fires wasn’t an accomplishment, fixing someone else’s mistakes wasn’t an accomplishment, running down the numbers to go in the TPS report wasn’t an accomplishment.

I bet you that you weren’t happy in that job. That’s the kind of situation that will make you dread Monday!

It’s Hard to be Satisfied When You’re Not Making an Impact

But what was the issue here really? I’m developing a theory that one of the key drivers of job satisfaction is the feeling of impact that our work gives us. Impact ties directly to our sense of purpose, and we know from Maslow that purpose is a vital component of well-being.

But purpose is sort of ethereal. It’s hard to put your hands on and it’s hard to measure.

Impact can be our proxy for purpose.

Here’s a thought exercise to help you consider how this relates to your own situation.

Think of an experience like I described above. Specifically, I want you to remember a situation where you did not feel like you were making an impact.

I’ll give you an example from my own background.

The Unexpected Tie Between Impact and Dissatisfaction

I had a new job with an exciting title that I felt very aligned with. Things were going okay at first, but then my boss got very focused on a big organizational integration project. He was especially keen on some analysis to support the strategy for the integration and he wanted many resources on my team dedicated to this.

I knew it was important to him, but I didn’t see how it fit in to our real purpose. In fact, the project was mostly a revenue play and my team was supposedly focused on customer experience. There were a lot of other elements involved, but that alignment issue was a big disconnect for me.

I had been enjoying my job prior to this. But now a weirdness set in. Sometimes I would come in at 8:30 to find that my boss and one of the people who reported to me were already there, working together on the integration project. 

They hadn’t invited me. 

Huge red flag! I knew my lack of enthusiasm for the project was being noticed and my performance was suffering. My overall satisfaction with my job started to dip at this point, and let me tell you, it was difficult to get it back on track because those situations can quickly become a downward spiral.

What Kind of Impact Are You Making?

Now I’d like to think about your own experience where you felt you weren’t making an impact. Take a few minutes to write down some of the details. Then, make some notes about your satisfaction with your work.

Next, we’re going to do the opposite. When was a time you knew you were making an impact?

For me, one of those times was when I was asked to put together a leadership development program. The ask was pretty short on details, and I loved that. That meant I got to define it all. The program was for high potential leaders and it was agreed that the main criteria of success would be the advancement of these leaders and their satisfaction with the program.

I was in work nirvana because I love helping people reach their potential. I also thrive in working with very little oversight. I knew who my stakeholders were and I took all the steps needed to draw them, listen to their perspectives, and then earn agreement on what I was developing. I was having a blast because I got to exercise my thought leadership and creativity in defining the elements of the program. Early on, I decided that this project would win a coveted company award. 

It did.

I felt amazing during this time. It was crystal clear to me that my efforts would, and later did, have a strong impact. Not just on the leaders who participated but for the stakeholders and for my leaders. 

It’s your turn. Think of a time you knew you were making an impact. What were you doing? How did you know you were making an impact?

Now think about your satisfaction. How did that compare to the previous situation where you weren’t making an impact?

Finally, I’d like you to think about where you are now. Do you feel like you’re making an impact? Why? Why not? How satisfied are you? Can you see the links between your felt-sense of impact and your satisfaction? How can you increase the impact you’re making?

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