MoneyIf you have any choice in the matter of how you spend your working time, then your best bet, in terms of enjoying your work, is to do what you enjoy so much that you would do it even if you never got paid. Your first thought might be something that you know does not pay enough to live on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a well-paying job that still fills your needs.

For those of us who are in more conventional work settings (as opposed to creative professions, such as artists, actors, musicians, professional athletes, and so forth) there are still choices. As time goes by, we can get a sense of which aspects of our jobs are most enjoyable. We can lean in those directions over time in terms of learning more about them, volunteering for projects that attract us, and not getting sidetracked by monetary temptations.

In a Gallup poll of 5.4 million employees at 474 organizations, American workers were asked how happy they were at work. The results revealed that only 29 percent felt engaged in their work. More than half reported not being engaged, and 16 percent felt actively disengaged. In Germany, only half as many felt engaged; in Singapore, only one-third. These statistics were not substantially affected by either the dot-com boom or its devastating subsequent bust. Apparently, feeling engaged or disengaged in work is a deeper phenomenon that is not easily moved by swings in the economy.

Interestingly, one of the most critical questions in the Gallup poll was “Do you have a best friend at work?” Another was “Does your supervisor or someone else at work care about you as a person?” There are basic human needs to be met at work as much as at home. The first of the two questions turned out to be highly correlated with profitability and involvement with customers. The second question would seem to correlate with job satisfaction naturally, since there’s a great need to feel cared about as a person regardless of the context of the situation. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, known for his Hierarchy of Needs, feeling appreciated as a person is a primal need. So being cared about as a person at work, whether by a supervisor or someone else, would result in greater involvement. It appears that connecting with others at work is a significant need.

Over the years, it’s become much clearer that money is not a top motivator – it’s just easiest to count.

We’re learning, over time, that the meaningful aspects of work have much more to do with feeling appreciated for our efforts than how much we bring home in our pockets. Meaning also comes from the challenge of dealing with new situations. It’s the newness or variety in work that makes it meaningful and pleasurable. According to Dr. Gregory Berns, in an interview quoted in The Sunday Paper, “Understanding that the pleasure money confers is significantly increased by the work done to earn it turns upside down a basic tenet of economics – that work is a negative and money is a positive. I think it is the other way around.” But it’s much easier to talk about money than it is about wanting to feel appreciated. So money remains the superficial currency of human value in the marketplace.

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