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Thursday, June 30, 2011

What is the level of your job satisfaction?

In my coaching experience, 5 out of 10 coachees at a 5 minus experience leave jobs because of 'not enough job satisfaction'. Job satisfaction is too big a concept. If we can bifurcate it to three levels, based on what psychologist Daniel Nettle did with the concept of 'happiness', it will help us understand how to negotiate job dissatisfaction better.

The basic level, or the first level of job satisfaction, comprises of momentary feelings, like the satisfaction of having a nice friend group at the office, or even having a understanding boss who allows you to come late. The second, or intermediate level of job satisfaction, is a state of mind. This level involves judgement about feelings, not feelings alone. The third and highest level of job satisfaction is more permanent and results from having a job that satisfies a deeper meaning or having a job with significance, like a job done to propagate a social cause like pollution.

What is your level of job satisfaction? If it is the first level, you are in a tricky waters. At this level, even though the 'presence' of momentary feelings is not enough to help you stay in the current job, 'absence' of these feelings can act ( and often do act) as a trigger to look for a different job.

Second level of Job satisfaction is about the judgement of those momentary feelings. Everyone has a different way of getting job satisfaction. Some find satisfaction in a job that provides constant novelty ( often a big reason for software programmers), some find it in a job that helps them constantly learn new areas, some find it in a job where lot of people-meeting is involved. Some like jobs that have low action>feedback delay, such as in customer service or sales. In these jobs, you get feedback on your action almost immediately. There are endless ways of beheading the multi-headed monster of job-satisfaction, as they say.

Third level of job satisfaction comes from a job that has deeper significance to you. I helped a coachee two years back to shift from a high-paying corporate job to well-paying job in education segment because the coachee wanted 'meaning' in his job. As he said, 'i want to have some purpose in my life'. Today i meet many youngsters, even with just 2 years experience, who look for 'meaningful' jobs, because money does not motivate them due to their well-to-do background.

In my experience, 3 out of 10 coachees face challenges of job-satisfaction at the first level. It arises, i think, because of mistaken belief that 'job dissatisfaction is an aggregate of unsatisfactory moments". If parents had these belief, they would have disliked 'parenting', because parenting is full of 'frustrating' moments. Instead, parents enjoy the process of parenting thorougly. In the same way, a job has both positive and negative moments, and it would be wrong to judge the level of dissatisfaction only by negative moments. But that is how it happens with some.

4 out of 10 coachees face challenges of job satisfaction at the second level. Professionals find it difficult to negotiate this because they seek solution to job-satisfaction with a mindset of solving Sudoko puzzle. Sudoko puzzle has one clear objective, no possibility of changing the objective midway although the goals may change, and one clear solution. On the other hand the puzzle of job satisfaction has multiple objectives which can change midway, can be reached through different goals and actions, and worse still, can have more than one solution. This puzzle of job satisfaction requires a different mindset.

What is your level of job satisfaction or dissatisfaction? If you have a problem of job satisfaction in your current job, you will be able to overcome the hurdles of job satisfaction if you can identify it's level. If, instead, you are satisfied in your current job, your level of job satisfaction will 'instruct' you about the next course of action for you.

Surprisingly, even entrepreneurs also face this challenge; except with one difference. While the cost of job satisfaction is paid by the employer of corporate professional, in the case of entrepreneur, he pays it through his own pocket.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Do emotions use you or you use emotions?

Here is a case of Pratham:

Pratham, with a four year experience, works in a company. When i met him in Jan 2011, he wanted to work with this company for a long time. However, when he called me in April, he wanted me to help him find a new job. When i asked him why, he said he is leaving because he had got a "B' rating in the year end appraisal. I was surprised because B rating is second best rating in his company. When i probed further about his decision of leaving, he said " Amit, my colleague, is not as good as he is, but he however has got A rating. So how can i stay in a company which does not value talent'.

Emotions are using Pratham. Emotions are important 'signals' to tell us that something is wrong. Like temperature indicates the status of physical state, our emotions indicate the status of our mental state. But high temperature does not decide the treatment to be taken, because high temperature may also result due to 'high infection'. So too is emotion. Emotion, like temperature, cannot decide the course of action to be taken.

But when emotions use us, emotions are used as a 'criteria' to decide the course of action. When emotions are used as 'input' to take decisions, we use emotions. When emotions use us, we react like Pratham. When we use emotions, we respond after weighing other inputs. When we use emotions, emotions are the source of understanding, but when emotions use us, they compel us to act!

From the viewpoint of career, when emotions use us, we stop learning about our 'Self'- who we are, what we like and value. When we use emotions instead, we name the emotion and find the underlying belief that is causing the emotion. For instance, if Pratham uses his emotion, he may find that his emotion is 'anger towards his company' for not recognising his talent. ( or it could be anger towards his boss).

With some probing, Pratham may be able to articulate his underlying belief of what 'talent' means to him. By articulating his belief in accurate words, he may be able to understand that his belief of talent is different than what what his company (or boss) believes?. For instance the company/boss may believe that Amit is 'talented' because he is a better 'team worker' than Pratham, although Pratham may be intelligent than Amit. These differing views of talent will help Pratham understand the priorities of his company/boss, and therefore will help him correct his career course.

With this crucial learning, Pratham is likely to make fewer blunders later in his career. On the other hand, because emotions are using him, Pratham has missed all this learning and can make the same mistake again and again. I have narrated one event in Pratham's life. Multiply this with hundred/thousand such events, and you will realise the importance of Pratham using emotions (instead of being used by emotions) on his career progress!

Emotions are the biggest source of both blunders and opportunities in a student/professional's life. However, even a coach cannot help you separate between the two if you cannot process emotions. Like Pratham, you will be blind to your own actions ! Unless Pratham learns to use emotions, he is victim of circumstance. Instead of using coach to understand himself better, he uses coach to justify his actions or to control the damage that is resulting from his actions. This is another reason why professionals cannot use career advice of a coach.

Using emotions means taking three steps. It means learning to name the emotion i.e understanding the difference between two emotions, say 'anger' and 'frustration' ( as in Pratham's case!) . Second step is to unravel the underling belief of emotion by peeling layers one above another. Third step is to undertake reality check of belief that will help you decide whether to continue or modify the belief.

One of the biggest unintended consequence of Using emotion is your ability to understand your self bit by bit from daily events of your life ( in contrast to attending retreats or going to Himalayas). Only after you understand your Self more accurately, you can take charge of your career course, instead of reacting and following other's course.

Where do you stand in your life? Do you use emotions or do emotions use you?

Post script: If emotions use you, this is the second FAT - failure attracting trait - that hinders your career progress.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Learning from Succession plans of big IT companies

Please read this link in yahoo on the succession planning of top IT companies.

http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/Succession-Planning-Some-ians-1973853613.html

As a careerologist, here are three lessons i would like to draw from these examples:

1. Successor should be an Insider. If you are changing jobs after 35-40, it is difficult to reach the top. This is part of 'core group' theory.

2. Successor should have a complementary skill set to the incumbent, not supplementary. If the incumbent is an 'organisation-driven' person, the successor could be 'customer-driven'. Whatever you are doing well, please stick to it. Do not try to be like the 'top boss'?

3. It is important to learn the 'soft organisational keys' to drive big agendas in the organisation, not the hard skill set. One can 'learn' these keys only after staying in an organisation for a long time. ( There is an art in learning these keys. If you have it, you are lucky. Others have to consciously develop this art.!)

Any comments?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Failure-attracting tendencies in career

In my career research, I have found that some traits 'attract' failure. I call them FAT - failure attracting tendencies- traits. These traits are such that they constantly tend to place a person into a 'structure' that leads a person unwittingly into a situation that attracts 'failure'.One such FAT trait is 'Inability to ask for help' from our friends, elders, mentors and our well wishers. Be it finding the right course or the right job after graduation, we need to obtain information from others to guide us. We should not be like Manoj.

I met Manoj, of about age 30, during one of my family trips to South India. Early morning, after waking in the morning, he asked for a sweet 'Sonpapdi'. I thought he wanted a high dose of calorie. Later i discovered that he keeps on eating lot of sweet during the day. I found that he also liked vegetables cooked in Masala. Not surprisingly, he complained about 'acidity' on day 3 and vomited. Reasons for acidity were obvious to any objective observer. When i checked with his wife and family members, i discovered that Manoj refuses to listen to any advice or seek any help on his food habits. Does it require an astrologer to predict that Manoj will face a major health challenge in his 40's?

Why doesn't Manoj ask for help even when he is suffering? Answer to this simple question is not so obvious. In my research, i have found that people like Manoj stop asking other's help or suggestion because his earlier experience of getting help from others has not been 'reinforcing'. This happens due to three reasons.

Firstly, people like Manoj do not know 'when to ask for help'. Without this knowledge, they seek help for everything. Others perceive them as naive simpletons, ready to be exploited. Secondly, even when they know 'when to ask for help', they do not know 'whom to ask'. They ask wrong people who do not have the requisite information and therefore provide too generic advice ! Thirdly, even if they sometimes know when and whom to ask for help, they do not know 'how to ask for help'. They ask wrong questions, and get inappropriate answers. In short, every experience of asking for help results in 'bad' experience. Either people exploit them for asking for help, or even if they manage to find the right person, because of wrong questions they get help that is too generic. This 'reinforcing' cycle consolidates their hypothesis that 'asking for help is not useful'. Slowly and surely, they stop asking for help from others. They become like Manoj.

Over a period of time, due to this accumulation of bad experience, Manoj becomes 'dead' to suggestions from his friends and family. Because people also exploit Manoj sometimes, Manoj stops listening to others. And because Manoj always get generic advice, he feels his case is different from others and therefore other's suggestions are not useful for him. In short Manoj stops listening to other's suggestion and advice.

This however creates a curious situation in Manoj's life. He not only stops listening to advice on 'food habits', he may also stop listening people's advice on other important matters of his life. He 'closes' the system around himself, and isolates himself from others inputs and feedback. He becomes blind to his own mistakes. This creates a classic 'recipe' for an impending failure !

On the other hand, developing this skill of asking for help ( when, whom and how to ask for help) makes a big difference in a person's career. I have found that many students, professionals and entrepreneurs face more than 'normal problems' in their career because they cannot ask for help.