Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Makes a Job Enjoyable?

What makes a job enjoyable and how many people actually get up every morning to go to a job they enjoy? The thought, for some, may be of money - but money in itself is unlikely to make a job enjoyable (though it may ease the pain).

In the Sunday Times dated 21st August, John Harlow wrote an article describing how in the next twelve weeks, a US government agency will make the first decisions, about flying mankind to the nearest inhabitable planet and whether we leave the solar system in giant tankers or personal ‘space yachts’, in deep sleep or frozen embryos.

Does this sound like an enjoyable and exciting job?

The government department called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Dapra) will seek to draw up ground rules for exploration and colonisation of worlds beyond the solar system. Depra is not ‘science fiction’ and is currently testing driverless cars in the Californian dessert, remote-controlled mechanical insects for crowd surveillance and thought-activated prosthetic arms.

One of the people who is employed for Depra is Regina Dugan, a Director, who will oversee the first meeting to define the first steps towards this interstellar adventure. At first this may seem an adventurous and exciting job, taking away the day-to-day monotony that many employees endure. Yet the decisions that have to be made go way beyond science, and include the missions destination, the legal ramifications, the sociological impact and the philosophical issues. Questions like ‘who should travel – should it be a small team of scientists or a cross-section of humanity.’ What about religion, law and order etc – and do we want them to represent a current fixed vision of humanity or to be free to create something else out there?

This is likely to be a thankless task – as it will be impossible to please ‘all the people’ that will have an opinion. Though appearing exciting, this could well be a highly stressful job and not that enjoyable at all. It’s the kind of job that looks exciting on the surface but where you are being set-up to disappoint the masses (who will need someone to blame) and you will never actually know the results of your decision – good or bad.

It seems to be human nature to look at other peoples job’s and feel envy for the excitement, adventure and challenges the job appears to offer – yet what we see on the surface, can often hide the real day-to-day role and accountabilities that truly define the job in totality.

Defining enjoyment in the work environment can prove problematic, unless one can fully empathise with the whole business environment and understand ones day to day responsibilities in respect to ‘the whole’. It’s in this area that some managers lose the plot - by not ensuring that all their employees understand the importance of their role and how their contribution, however minor they may perceive it, adds to and supports organisational success.

An organisation should be a cohesive unit of individual parts, which through effective strategy and leadership, work like a well oiled machine to optimise the organisations performance and ensure continuous improvement and sustainable growth. Any one of these individual ‘parts’ that is not working, as one, with the rest of the organisation will guarantee a sub-optimal solution – which in itself will impact the potential ‘cash’ that is available to be ‘shared’ by the organisation, whether as salary increases, bonuses, or both.

Management could do a lot more to make the less than attractive jobs more enjoyable to those employed in these roles. It’s a simple fact that though the job might not pay much, might not require university degrees and doesn’t in itself hold great responsibility – someone has to do it, and a motivated employee is much more productive than a demotivated one.

Simply put, your organisation won’t function without them – regardless of how many qualifications and years of experience your executive team has – so be smart, and try to make all jobs in your organisation enjoyable to do – you’ll be surprised by the positive impact on performance.


Harlow, J. (2011). Stock up your fridge, ET – we’re coming to stay. The Sunday Times, 21st August, p.7.

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