Navigate Your Career: Taking Responsibility for Your Own Job Satisfaction

By B. Lynn Ware

Maybe you feel that your employer does not care about your career growth due to the lackluster economy and perceived high unemployment rate. Maybe you feel that there are no good job opportunities out there, so why bother looking? Maybe you feel that you need to stay where you are and just deal with it.


Whatever the feelings, as a global employee engagement and retention expert for fifteen years, I am here to tell you that employers DO CARE….in fact, they care very much.


Since the mid 90’s, the focus on retaining competent and talented employees has been increasingly on the radar screen for most executives. In addition, awareness about the cost of turnover has skyrocketed. Executives know that if you leave they will pay more than your current cost to replace you. Even more important, they will lose valuable time in meeting company goals and increasing their market share.


While unemployment overall is high, for those with bachelor’s and advanced degrees, U.S. unemployment is still significantly below 5% (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Employers know that replacing a skilled worker, especially in fields such as technology and health care, is not as easy as it seems when reading the daily headlines.


So if you are dissatisfied with your job and are wishing you could make a change, consider the following. Don’t you have a huge time and emotional investment in your current job and your organization? Think back to before you started this job:

  • How long did it take you to find this opportunity?

  • What preparation and aggravation did you have to go through during the interviewing and hiring process?

  • What anxiety did you experience before you got your offer letter?

  • How long did it take you to ramp up and gain credibility with your current manager and work team?

  • What relationships and rituals do you have at work that you would miss if you left?


When you think about the resources and energy you spend getting competent and feeling comfortable at work, it is a huge investment. So before you take a walk, consider your job as a financial investment. Consider:

  • Is it too soon to pull out- will you figuratively have a short term “capital gain” tax to pay?

  • Have you gotten the Return on Investment (ROI) that matches or exceeds the level of energy you have put out?


If you are even a bit unsure or wavering in your evaluation, why not take an additional step before you walk and request a conversation with your manager about your job situation?


Many companies today have provided training for their managers on how to have a career conversation with their direct reports. If your manager has not done that with you, insure your own investment by taking charge and requesting the meeting yourself.


Here’s how to prepare:

Step 1: Pinpoint the top three reasons for your current job dissatisfaction.

Time is short for most of us these days. If you are going to request time from your manager, make sure you can articulate what is most important to you. No one wants to hear a laundry list of complaints. Come up with the items that would solve 80% of your dissatisfaction. Here is a checklist of job factors to help with your assessment of what is bothering you the most.


Individual and Managerial

  • Interesting Work: Work that is intellectually stimulating and leverages your skills and abilities.

  • Achievement/Success: Having clear goals, receiving coaching and feedback on your performance, succeeding and achieving your goals.

  • Professional Growth: Getting continuous training and development, as well as learning on the job via new assignments and feedback.

  • Recognition & Rewards: The organization and its individuals (managers, executives, peers) showing you that your work is appreciated.

  • Career Advancement: Not only upward promotion, but also lateral career movement; also increased responsibilities in your current job.

  • Dynamic Team: Being on a team of highly competent people who know their roles, work well together, and show respect to one another.

  • Work/Life Balance: Degree of control and flexibility in balancing the demands of work with the demands of life outside of work.


  • Benefits: Health care, vacation and holidays, paid time off, disability insurance, 401K, pension plans, etc.

  • Compensation: Base compensation (base salary) or incentive compensation (commissions, bonuses, stock options, etc.).

  • Organizational Image: The image and perception of the company/organization in the marketplace.

  • Organizational Performance: The organization’s mission, vision and values, products and services, current business results, strategic direction, leadership team, and communication systems.

  • Job Security: Having a job that is relatively secure.

  • Policies and Administration: Rules and procedures that define how you have to get things done (e.g. human resource policies, finance and accounting procedures). Does not refer to work processes.

  • Work Conditions: The physical work environment (e.g. old or new, cramped or open, too hot or cold). Does not refer to technology required to get the job done.


Step Two: Ask for the appointment.

During one recent training session, we spent 45 minutes with the participants planning how to request time for this discussion with their managers. Why did it take so long? Many of the participants had the following concerns:

“My manager is always so busy. She probably doesn’t have time for this discussion right now.”

“I don’t want to sound negative about my job. Maybe they’ll put me on the layoff list”.

“My company is having financial problems. They aren’t going to do anything special for me right now anyway.”


If you have any of these concerns, or others, the consequences of your current dissatisfaction will eventually be felt much harder by your manager. He or she will feel it in the lack of discretionary effort you feel motivated to put forth or worse, such as when you tell your boss that you have taken another job. It’s best to attempt to improve your current situation now.


Step Three: How to Have the Conversation with your Manager.


Once you have the appointment, take the time in advance to sketch out and jot down what you will actually say to your manager by following these key guideposts:

  1. Start with the positive. Describe the factors of your current work situation that are most satisfying for you.

  2. Then list the top three factors that are not in alignment with your personal needs and goals (from your prior assessment), and share your ideas about how to improve them. Highlight the benefits to your manager of improving your job satisfaction.

  3. Ask for your manager’s reactions to your ideas and ask for his/her ideas.

  4. Listen and openly discuss both of your ideas.

  5. Agree upon at least one of two short and long term actions both of you will take.

  6. Set a follow-up date to review progress on the agreed upon actions.


By taking time to discuss what is bothering you at work, you have the possibility of creating a mutually beneficial relationship. If you start to feel motivated and energized again in your job as a result of changes that were made, it is likely that you will voluntarily increase both the quality and quantity of your work. In addition, you will stay with the company longer, thereby reducing the cost of turnover for the company, allowing your manager and team to achieve business goals and you will get a better return on your investment of already allocated time and energy.




B Lynn WareB. Lynn Ware, Ph.D., is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and the founder and President of Integral Talent Systems, Inc. (ITS), a technology enabled global talent management consulting firm that has been in business since 1992. ITS is based in the heart of Silicon Valley in Mountain View, CA. ITS offers research based state of the art tools, products and services for organizations who want to leverage the productivity of their human capital by implementing innovative systems and practices for attracting, developing, engaging and retaining top talent.

Dr. Ware has been a key consultant in the human resources community for over 30 years. Her specialty is in developing systems and processes for how to leverage human capital for the benefit of achieving extraordinary business results. She can be reached at 650.965.1806 or by email at drware@itsinc.net

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1 Comment

Charles Healy on Thursday 11/10/2011 at 01:24PM wrote:

Good advice. In approaching manager, one might use a sandwich. Positive aspects of job for you and manager, then what could be improved for you and the benefits for both of you, then close with more positives.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the opinions of this organization.