Tag Archives: job satisfaction

Shaping a Good Life

April 2014

Last week my husband, our friend and I walked for three days on the Great Ocean Walk track in Victoria, Australia. It was a wonderful time: walking in a beautiful part of the world (see photos below) with our backpacks, tents, food and water. On walks like this, life is good.

What makes a good life?

Long walks make for great conversations. What makes a ‘good life’ was one of our discussions. My friend and I talked about a particular aspect of the good life which often occupies our minds i.e. good work. That is, the kind of life where we strive to do meaningful work which makes a contribution to others. The kind of work that is energising, engaging, satisfying and fulfilling.

Our chat reminded me of social researcher and author Hugh Mackay’s recent book “The Good Life”. Here are some of his thoughts:

“The good life is a life lived for others.”

“A good life contributes to others’ wellbeing.”

In relation to busyness: “In the rush to live life to the full, it’s easy to lose sight of the point of all this activity, let alone know whether it’s contributing to the common good.”

“The whole idea of a good life will evaporate if we focus on ourselves and what we’re getting out of it. Self-absorption is not a recognised pathway to goodness.”

“The cardinal question is ‘is this a good thing to do?’ not ‘is this a good thing for my public image?’”

In relation to values: “Goodness is not a grand or mysterious concept. All we require are a few simple disciplines that, like compass settings, steer us in the right direction”.

Work, love, play and service

A good life comprises more than just meaningful work. Chris Peterson, Psychologist and one of the founders of Positive Psychology, wrote:

“What makes life worth living is not a psychological process. If someone participates in “work, love, play and service,” he or she has a full life. On the one hand, maybe most people have a full life. On the other hand, some qualifications may be in order if we want to zero in more exactly on the good life. Positive Psychologists would probably speak about good work, good love, good play and good service. Qualifications that move an activity from the typical to the notable include how well the activity is done; whether it is done with enthusiasm and joy; whether the activity is engaging; whether the activity has a larger meaning and purpose; and so on.”

Shaping a good life

The idea of a good life arises frequently in my client meetings. This leads to them wondering about the questions they can ask so they can turn work, love, play and service into good work, good love, good play and good service. Of the many questions to prompt reflection here are just a few:
1. What do I care about?
2. What are my values, and how do they guide my life?
3. Why am I here?
4. What result do I want to create?
5. Is what I do every day aligned with my intention and purpose?
6. What role do I need to take on to live with purpose and to be constructive?
7. What is called for in this context and situation?
8. How can I align my actions with my purpose? Where do I need to adapt my actions?
9. Why is it that I want to do what I do?
10. Where can I find time to pause for reflection and to find clarity?

Intentional work

I will end here with this thought from the work of Senge et. al. in their book “Presence”:

“When our work is informed by a larger intention [about what really matters], it’s infused with who we are and our purpose in being alive.”

What is your larger intention? What really matters to you? When are you alive?



“The Good Life: What Makes a Life Worth Living” by Hugh Mackay, 2013 (Special thanks to my friend Helen for this Christmas gift last year)

“Pursuing the Good Life” 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology” by Christopher Peterson, 2013

“Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People Organisations and Society” by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers (2002)

Taken by Amanda Horne. Location: Great Ocean Walk (Victoria, Australia) April 2014.   (You might be interested to know that the sunset photo was taken from the toilet block at the Devil’s Kitchen campsite. Perhaps one of the best located toilet blocks in the world!)

Job satisfaction is not enough

You would expect that if employees have high job satisfaction then organisations would experience high job performance and staff retention.  This is only part of the story.  Thomas A. Wright (Professor of Management at Kansas State University) and his colleagues reveal through their research that psychological wellbeing is the critical factor.

In reviewing the history of research on this topic, Wright found that early organisational theorists found inconsistent results between the ‘job satisfaction leads to job performance / staff retention’ theory. Yet years before that, in the 1920s and 1930s, a rare few researchers noted that employee wellbeing was a greater contributor to labour turnover than was commonly realised.

It’s only lately that researchers such as Wright and his colleagues are again interested in the relationship between employee wellbeing and job performance. Their recent findings support the early theories that there is a significant relationship between employee wellbeing, psychological wellbeing and job performance and staff retention. That is, job satisfaction alone is not enough to predict performance and retention.

Wright points out that the positive states which characterise psychological wellbeing also help people to “thrive, to mentally flourish and psychologically grow.” He suggests that employees with high levels of psychological wellbeing and who are satisfied with their job are “more easily able to ‘broaden and build’ themselves…and as a result these satisfied and psychologically well individuals will reap such additional benefits as being more creative, resilient, socially connected, physically healthy and derive more meaning from their work”. Such people also have the resources to “initiate, foster, facilitate and sustain high levels of job performance”. In summary:

  • Job performance is highest when employees have high levels of psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction
  • Job satisfaction predicts job performance but only if the employee also has high psychological wellbeing
  • The relationship between job satisfaction and retention is also stronger when employees have high levels of psychological wellbeing

“The promotion of employee psychological wellbeing is an intrinsic good for both individuals and organizations; one toward which we should all work” (Wright)

“Happiness is a broad and subjective word, but a person’s well-being includes the presence of positive emotions, like joy and interest, and the absence of negative emotions, like apathy and sadness, Wright said.  An excessive negative focus in the workplace could be harmful, such as in performance evaluations where negatives like what an employee failed to do are the focus of concentration, he said. When properly implemented in the workplace environment, positive emotions can enhance employee perceptions of finding meaning in their work. Happiness is not only a responsibility to ourselves, but also to our co-workers, who often rely on us to be steadfast and supportive.” (K-State media release)

Employee Engagement and Wellbeing

The Gallup Organisation recently reported similar findings to Wright’s.  They undertook a global study of 47,361 employees.  Gallup notes that employee engagement is significantly impacted by employees’ personal wellbeing. Wellbeing is measured by reference to how people rate the quality of their lives overall, and how they rate their emotional states.
Among the workers studied, the wellbeing component shows up in these statistics:

  • 95% of the engaged workers said they were treated with respect
  • 88% said they experienced enjoyment for much of the day
  • Actively disengaged employees are more likely that engaged employees to say they felt stressed for much of the day (this impacts physical and emotional health)
  • Actively disengaged employees are twice as likely as engaged employees to say they experienced anger in their day.

“Happy workers are not magic, but they can give a workplace that extra boost” (Ed Diener, quoted in Gallup Management Journal)


Wright makes a number of recommendations which can help enhance psychological wellbeing:

  • Put people into appropriate work situations which maximize psychological wellbeing
  • Train people to help improve job fit
  • Adapt the work conditions as best as possible to help employees maximize psychological wellbeing
  • Put people who are psychologically well, socially responsible and ethically strong into leadership positions; in turn they contribute to creating healthy organizations
  • Provide stress management training
  • Emphasise social support at work
  • Implement family friendly policies
  • Provide training and implement policies which emphasize the broaden and build theory

Gallup points out “Ideally, high employee wellbeing creates a virtuous cycle: workers who are happier and more content with their lives make for a more productive workplace, and that greater productivity leads to successes that boost their wellbeing even further. Too often, the reverse seem to be a vicious cycle: low worker productivity is accompanied by high levels of pessimism and physical health problems, which, in turn, lower productivity.
In environments like these, employers must be concerned with doing whatever they can to help workers avoid ‘negativity traps’.”

Like Wright, Gallup suggests that employees are placed in the right job and they feel supported and appreciated.


Wright, T.A. (2010). More than Meets the Eye: The Role of Employee Well-Being in Organizational Research, In Linley, P. A., Harrington, S. & Garcea, N (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology and work (pp. 143-154). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

“K-State researcher says happy employees are critical for an organization’s success” (February 2009)  http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/feb09/wellbeing20309.html

“A Good Job Means a Good Life” (Gallup Management Journal, May 2011): http://gmj.gallup.com

A culture of appreciation at work

In 2006 I wrote an article about the importance of creating a culture of appreciation in the workplace.

I raise this topic again in 2011 because over the past few months, friends and clients have shared stories about how feeling appreciated and valued at work impacts their job satisfaction:

  • After moving to a new company my friend commented, “This new company really looks after its people – unlike where I previously worked.”
  • A boss missed an opportunity to retain a valuable employee by not properly valuing their staff
  • A number of clients have lost some of their enthusiasm at work because they don’t feel appreciated or supported by their managers

In January this year the Australian Institute of Management (Victoria & Tasmania) released the results of their employee engagement survey. It revealed that 40% of the 3,368 respondents felt unappreciated in their roles at work: “the survey shows that negativity and apathy are present in the ranks of too many Australian organisations.”  In an article in The Australian newspaper, Susan Heron (Chief Executive of AIM (Vic & Tasmania)) emphasised the importance of creating a good workplace culture. She commented, “You’ve got to have employees feeling valued, that they are listened to and understood. You need to make sure that employees know that what they do makes a difference and what they do matters.”

“The #1 reason people leave their jobs: they don’t feel appreciated.” (Tom Rath and Donald Clifton)

What can you do?

It’s more than simply saying “thank you, great job”. It requires a mindset of appreciating what it is that people do well:

  • Notice their strengths, their values, and what’s important to them
  • Pay attention to them, show respect, value their work and their contribution, and build their efficacy, strengths, and their confidence
  • Be curious, open and interested in other people; get to know them and understand them without judgment; know what makes them tick. Listen to them
  • Care about them, notice what makes them unique, find something of interest in each person
  • Treat them fairly
  • Accepting them for who they are – genuinely and without judgment
  • Be authentic in your appreciation for those around you

We all have a role in appreciating the people around us (it’s not just up to the managers and leaders).
What else can you add to the list above? What have you noticed or done that works well?

Stirling, J. (29 January 2011) . Workers in search of the exit.  The Australian.
(With thanks to my friend Bert van Halen for sending me this article)
Linley, P. A., Willars, J. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). The Strengths Book: Be Confident, Be Successful, and Enjoy Better Relationships by Realising the Best of You.
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown.
Rath, T. (2004). How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life, New York: Gallup Press.

Our Mind and Our Strengths

In this last article for 2009, I bring to you a series of odds and ends, mostly about mindfulness and strengths.


You know how it is, when you turn your attention to something it appears to be everywhere.

I have written before about mindfulness and meditation:

April 2008  – Wellbeing, Meditation and Mindfulness

May 2006 –  Mindfulness

July 2004 –  Meditation, Mediation or Medication?

There are increasing amounts of information and research supporting this very powerful practice.
Here are just some bits of information which I think will interest you.

1. Time affluence and employee well-being:

There are numerous references to mindfulness research on a Positive Psychology discussion list of which I am a member.  One of the articles concerned “Time Affluence”.  The researchers, Tim Kasser and Ken Sheldon, two well-known names in the Positive Psychology world, suggest that time affluence is a topic worthy of consideration by business executives when considering how to improve employee wellbeing. Time affluence is an important predictor of subjective well-being.  This is not simply about the time needed to just ‘chill out’, it’s the time required to invest in meaningful work, to do a job well, and to cultivate meaningful and supportive relationships.  These are essential to our wellbeing. Time affluence enables us to stay in the present (“a psychological characteristic demonstrated by past research to benefit well-being”), to be mindful and to be fully aware of our experiences.  Time poverty affects “physical health, civic engagement and family involvement” and can lead to cognitive overload.

The authors conducted studies and found that time affluence related positively to subjective well-being, job satisfaction and satisfaction with life. They reported that “individuals who experienced more time affluence apparently report higher levels of subjective well-being in part because they experience more mindfulness and greater satisfaction of their psychological needs”.  They also found that “the benefits of time affluence also occur for people who want to be busy”.

“People higher in time affluence reported experiencing more autonomy, competence and feelings of intimacy with others and reported spending more time pursuing activities related to personal growth, connections to others, and physical fitness; such experiences and activities apparently helped to satisfy people’s psychological needs, to the benefit of their personal well-being.”

(Reference: “Time Affluence as a Path Toward Personal Happiness and Ethical Business Practice” by Tim Kasser and Ken Sheldon, published in Journal of Business Ethics, 2009, 84:243-255)

2. Mindful Leadership:

This is the name of a book written by Michael Carroll who was in Australia recently.  The Australian Financial Review’s Boss Magazine attended his mindfulness workshop in September 2009 and wrote about this experience in last week’s Boss Magazine  “Carroll talks of mindful meditation as “another different muscle altogether; one that has grown profoundly flabby in the modern world”. Carroll argues that we should meditate because it can preserve our sanity”.  (Nb – Boss Magazine, free with the Fin Review, is published on the second Friday each month from Feb-Nov, and the first Friday in Dec.)

I attended a workplace well-being conference in Sydney in September 2009 at which Michael Carroll also spoke. He had much wisdom to share, and many reminders of the dangers of speed, busy-ness and the pressure to achieve things fast. “Busy-ness suggests importance and relevance”; we want to get somewhere fast and we want to be someone fast: “in the effort to get somewhere we overlook the need to just be somewhere and to be who we are. Mind training helps to remember and learn how to simply be”.   “The speeding mind is the essence of fear, it’s just a form of panic”.

Carroll mentioned that mindfulness is taught in many professions including law and the military.  The military uses meditation to manage post traumatic stress disorder and “a diplomat in US Defence is combining Martin Seligman’s positive psychology practices and mindfulness”.

Carroll also mentioned that just 2-3 mins of silence and sitting quietly in the classroom radically improves childrens’ attention spans.

3. Jon Kabat-Zinn in Australia:

Another very well-known figure in mindfulness.  Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn & Dr Saki Santorelli visited Sydney in November 2009 and led 7-day Professional Training Retreat. Kabat-Zinn also conducted dialogues with clinicians and health-care professionals at Westmead Hospital, Sydney and delivered a public talk. I know a number of people who attended the retreat or talk, and were very impressed.

For more information and for a recent radio interview, see: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/spiritofthings/stories/2009/2735241.htm

The ABC page includes links for the Center for Mindfulness and for Kabat-Zinn’s homepage.

4. The Dalai Lama and Martin Seligman:

It was a great joy last week to attend the Mind and Its Potential conference in Sydney week and to see the Dalai Lama, Martin Seligman, B. Allan Wallace and Marc Hauser on stage together for almost three hours, conversing about their areas of interest.  The discussion was moderated by Natasha Mitchell from ABC Radio National. No pun intended…it was a definitely a meeting of minds. This was the first time Seligman and the Dalai Lama had met each other.

5. Loving Kindness Meditation and Positive Emotions:

This is not so new.  Barbara Fredrickson, very well-known and highly respected in the positive psychology world, is famous for her research on positive emotions.  Over the recent years she has tested the ancient practice of loving kindness meditation.  She has found that it leads to improved happiness, enhanced positive emotions and enhanced personal resources. (Reference: “Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources” by Fredrickson, Coffee, Peck, Cohn, Finkel, published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008, Vol 95)

Strengths and Acceptance

Here are two articles which you might like to read when you have a spare (!) moment.

Holiday Strengths”: http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/amanda-horne/200912035888

“Tis the Season for Acceptance”: http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/denise-quinlan/200912086227

Zest and Work

How’s your zest? Your vitality, energy, exuberance, vigor, engagement? Do you approach your work with “anticipation, energy, and excitement”?

These are important questions because zest is linked with enhanced psychological wellbeing and better physical health, which in turn affect such things as job performance, reduced turnover and absenteeism. “People who are zestful are more likely to pursue flow (engagement) in their everyday activities and to regard their lives as meaningful.”

Zest and Work is the title of an article in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior (Note 1). The researchers, some big names in Positive Psychology, already knew that zest predicts general life satisfaction. This was based on their extensive work with the VIA (Values in Action) classification of character strengths. Wanting to extend their research into workplace settings, the researchers were interested in how zest is related to work satisfaction, and how zest relates to the concept of work as a calling.

Work satisfaction
Work satisfaction and commitment is ‘not simply a function of the work itself’. Other factors include: safety, security, challenge, variety, and responsibility.  Further, what the employee brings to work is also important, such as their levels of happiness, enthusiasm, and ability to be socially engaged.

Work as a calling
Work which is defined as a ‘calling’ occurs when employees are motivated to work because it is fulfilling, is intrinsically rewarding, and is ‘central to one’s very existence’. Such workers have high work satisfaction and take fewer sick days, and work units experience higher morale and better communication.

Research Results

The study of 9,803 participants confirmed the hypothesis that ‘zestful individuals would be more likely to experience their work as a calling and [would be] more satisfied with their work and with life in general’. Of all of the VIA strengths, ‘zest was the single best predictor of work as a calling’.

Enhancing Zest

The researchers list some of the many ways to enhance zest.  For example, optimising health and fitness, having a hopeful and optimistic disposition, having a supportive supervisor and good social and work relationships, cultivating gratitude, and seeing where one’s work fits into the bigger vision.

What can we do?

Zest is within our personal control, and is also affected by our workplace settings. Executives can take an interest in the ‘psychology of energy’ that drives their organisations. They can deepen their understanding of how employees’ levels of zest are affected by such things as workplace culture, communications, conversations, policies and procedures.

This is where the practical application of Positive Psychology, Positive Organizational Behavior, Positive Organizational Scholarship and Appreciative Inquiry can help executives to build positive workplaces where people are zestful and thriving.

Note 1: Peterson, C., Park, N., Hall, N., Seligman, M.E.P. (2009), Zest and Work, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol 30; Issue. 2, pp 161-172
All quotes above are drawn from this article.

Respect at Work

Last month I heard an interesting radio interview on workplace incivility. In line with the theme of my (usually) monthly emails, I reflected on how this month’s email could kick off the year with tips that help build thriving people, thriving workplaces.  Below is some information from the radio interview and some information drawn from some of the past five years’ emails.

Workplace Incivility

Christine Pearson, Professor of Management at Arizona’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, is an expert in workplace incivility and was recently interviewed by ABC Radio National. Here are some extracts: Incivility is the seemingly inconsequential acts which have a negative impact.  It is at the low end in terms of intensity.  It can be denied, joked off, and some would say they don’t mean harm.  Incivility is not ‘out and out’ harassment and bullying.  It includes sarcasm, not being helpful, talking down, sending bad news via email, belittling, talking badly about people behind their back, or simply being unhelpfully unresponsive. Although the behaviour might be subtle, the costs are not.  People reduce their hours of work, reduce effort, lose focus, their customer service suffers and about one in eight people leave their job.  The bad behaviour ripples out and can corrode people’s values so that they too begin to act in similar ways. This happens when people are the on the receiving end of incivility, or if they witness it. Less than 10% of people report incivility because they think they might be ridiculed, or encouraged to get over it and toughen up.  Workplaces might not be aware that incivility is occurring because, unlike bullying and harassment, there are usually few corporate policies or guidelines on how to deal with this more subtle behaviour.

“Negative interactions had a fivefold strong effect on mood than positive interactions – so nasty people pack a lot more wallop than their more civilised counterparts” (“The No A-hole Rule”, Robert I. Sutton Ph.D., Warner Business Books, 2007)

A Thriving Workplace

Extracts from my previous emails:

Focus everyone’s attention on what it takes to be a decent human being, and how to uplift and energise others around them.  Encourage behaviours that promote positivity and help an organisation to thrive and flourish and to be a positive workplace. Because emotions are contagious, each person needs to consider their impact on those around them.

  • Leaders have a role in inspiring positive moods and in creating the conditions that promote positivity
  • Leadership is closely linked to one’s humanity
  • “The new CEO will be a healer” (Bulletin Magazine, June 2005)
  • The best managers encourage friendships in the workplace by creating the conditions under which such relationships thrive
  • All employees deserve a manager who cares about their general wellbeing
Respectful relationships
  • It’s about hearts, minds and souls; workplaces should be full of “energy, light and vibrancy”
  • Developing a climate of appreciation in people, teams and organisations leads to better performance, more engaged workers, more satisfied staff.  It lifts the individual and collective mood and creates an attractive place where people want to work
  • Give attention to people; show respect; value them. Treat people with respect and caring: they want to belong
  • The motivation of people depends on human connectedness
  • Appreciation, valuing each other, is the building block for successful workplace relationships

“Respect can be a powerful signal to individuals regarding their standing not only as employees but as people” (Knowledge@Wharton “Lack of Organizational Respect Fuels Employee Burnout”)

“I am more aware of the attitude I bring to work and how it affects my colleagues around me.  I also make a conscious effort if I notice that someone is not the happiest or if they are super busy, I offer to get them lunch or remind them that they need a break or simply offer help.  Sometimes by just saying hello to someone and smiling or giving them a nice compliment can really change the person’s perspective.” (A client’s comment on how they treat others)

All the best in your quest to create the kind of workplace that brings “energy, light and vibrancy” and enriches employees’ hearts, minds and souls. I wish you well for 2009.

Friends at work

How would you respond: “I have a best friend at work” (yes? no?)

Research by the Gallup Organization, based on surveys of 10 million people, reveals that this is one of the best predictors of an organisation’s successful performance. (Note 1)

Why is having a ‘best friend at work’ important? Friends:

  • Provide a source of emotional support and offer encouragement
  • Help reduce stress and increase health
  • Affect our biology and help lower blood pressure
  • Engender trust, which is critical for success at work
  • Provide positive, contagious energy
  • Add meaning in our lives
  • Value, tolerate, appreciate us and cheer us on
  • Are more likely to engage in sharing information, and conversing in non-threatening ways

Friends at work are vital to one’s engagement, satisfaction and motivation at work.

“When you don’t have a friend at work there is no-one to brag to, you can’t share the successes and savour the good moments.” (A client, August 2007)

Gallup’s research shows that:

  • People who have a “best friend” at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work
  • Close friendships at work boosts employee satisfaction by almost 50%
  • The quality of the friendships is the best predictor of happiness and life satisfaction
  • People with at least three close friends at work were 46% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their job and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their life

Why does it have to be a ‘best’ friend?’ Isn’t having friendships at work dangerous? “Gallup itself would have dropped the statement if not for one stubborn fact: it predicts performance. Something about a deep sense of affiliation with the people in an employee’s team drives him/her to do positive things for the business he/she otherwise would not do…..Subsequent large-scale, multi-company analyses confirmed that this question is a scientifically salient ingredient in obtaining a number of [critical] business-relevant outcomes.” (Note 2)

From the Australian Financial Review (7 August 2007)

“It may be time to revise the saying that work and private lives should not mix. A survey from the US shows that employees believe productivity improves when colleagues are also friends….63% of employees think being pals is better for business.”

From the Australian Financial Review’s Boss Magazine (May 2007)

“Research shows that employees who have a friendly relationship with the boss that doesn’t overstep the mark are usually happier and more productive.”

“The best managers encourage friendships in the workplace by creating the conditions under which such relationships thrive.” (Note 2)

Is ‘nurturing friendships’ in your strategic business plan?
In your personal development plan, where do ‘friendships’ feature?
What are you doing to be a better friend to your co-workers?
What are you doing to create an environment at work in which friendships can flourish?


(1) The Gallup Organization developed their Q12 in the late 1990s. The Q12 comprises the twelve questions which are most powerful in explaining employees’ productive motivations on the job i.e. whether people are engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged at work. Gallup now has 10 million sets of responses, in 41 languages across 114 countries.

(2) “12: The Elements of Great Managing” Rodd Wagner & James Harter (2006)

(3) Other sources: “Social Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman (2006), and “Vital Friends” by Tom Rath (2006)


This article…
…aims to provide you and your teams with information for your professional and personal development. Topics are based on areas of interest raised by clients and colleagues, with material drawn from journals, books, articles and shared experiences.

© Amanda Horne Pty Ltd, September 2007