Does employee job satisfaction lead to better job performance, true or false?
This is a question I was asked during a recent class I was attending. We were 140 people there and I looked around thinking, “Duh. Of course, this statement is true. Of course, employees who are happy in their jobs perform better. The teacher asked us to raise our hands if we thought this statement was true, and immediately my hand went up. Most of the other students in the class also raised their hands. Then he asked those who thought the statement was false to raise their hands, and I rolled my eyes at the 30 people who disagreed with me. I looked back on my professional career and always performed best when I was happy in my job. Obviously, those 30 people were wrong, right?
The professor asked one of my peers, a young woman who said the statement was false, why she thought that. His answer was simple: “In my career, I have held positions that I did not like, but I knew that I had to perform to be promoted to the next level, to the position that I wanted. So I worked hard and achieved a lot, but no, I wasn’t happy with my role.
Uh-oh… she might be onto something. Maybe I answered that question wrong after all.
It turns out that I was indeed wrong. The professor went on to explain that job satisfaction does not translate into better performance, in fact, it’s the other way around. It is high performance that leads to greater job satisfaction. Employees enjoy a challenge and their satisfaction comes from accomplishing this difficult task. Learning something new, achieving a goal they didn’t think was attainable. The satisfaction that comes from performing challenging tasks is what makes employees feel satisfied with their role. My mind was blown, but it also made so much sense.
The goal of leadership should be to improve the performance of systems, processes and people while improving quality and increasing output, while simultaneously bringing a sense of pride in work to our teams. Our job is to eliminate the causes of procedure failure and to equip our employees with proven resources to carry out their tasks. We should give our team meaningful and challenging tasks that make them feel like they are contributing to the success of the organization. We should enable them to learn, develop and apply specific skills that interest them and ensure that they know they are a contributing and respected part of the organization.
I now know that high performance leads to greater job satisfaction, and I clearly know that talented employees are the most important asset an organization can have, so what can I do to improve the performance of my team while ensuring that they are satisfied in their role? As leaders, we must recognize that we cannot do things alone and trust our team to accomplish difficult tasks. We need to collaborate and build cohesive relationships with our team and colleagues and give everyone the mutual respect to lead extraordinary group efforts. Sometimes, as leaders, we lack confidence in the staff around us to accomplish these difficult tasks and we do them ourselves. What I know now, and what I encourage you all to do, is to trust your teams. Trust them to complete difficult tasks without you. Set them up for success and let them achieve it. Let your team be the hero.
Meghann Broadstock is VP/Eureka Branch Manager and Head of Commercial Lending for Redwood Capital Bank and can be reached directly at 707-444-9845 or [email protected]