Monday, May 10, 2010

Do You Like What You Do Each Day?

This photo is by wageslave.

Do you like what you do each day?  This is the central question in, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. The book, which covers a ride range of Gallup research, delineates the most essential ingredients to "creating a life that's worthwhile, not just for ourselves but for those around us."

Back to the question - do you like what you do each day? According to the authors, only 20% of people can give a resounding "yes" in response.  Yikes!  This is problematic, since being happy at work is the most essential element in overall wellbeing, outranking even, physical and financial wellbeing. 

I guess it makes sense.  We spend SO much time at work.  And, our feelings of job satisfaction or dissatisfaction permeate all other aspects of our lives.

This got me thinking... As nonprofit leaders are we doing all we can to make work satisfying for our employees?  Are we giving direct reports the autonomy they need to get the job done?  Are we ensuring that people have the opportunity to use ALL of their skills EVERY day, i.e. do we have "the right people on the bus" doing the right jobs?  As managers, are we attentive to our employees?  Do we pay attention to people and care about them as individuals vs. treat them as cogs in a wheel?

Also, as nonprofit leaders, are we creating opportunities for people in our communities to realize their ambitions through fulfilling volunteer assignments?  Nonprofits arguably have a unique role to play in terms of creating spaces where people can use their strengths, and discover and engage their passions, regardless of whether or not they get paid.  This is good for our organizations and for the people who serve.

Finally, as charitable organizations are we helping people (namely our donors) to increase their overall wellbeing by giving them an outlet for their altruism.  According to Wellbeing, "spending money on others...appears to be as important to people's happiness as the total amount of money they make."

According to one experiment, "participants who spent money on a gift for someone else or who gave it to charity experienced a significant boost in wellbeing by the end of the day, while people who spent money on themselves did not."  There is a lot of research on this topic.

In short, as institutions and leaders, we have a unique opportunity to help people live more fulfilling lives. This is a great honor! When it comes to the people we serve, we've always knows (or hoped for) this.  But research also shows that we also have an opportunity to make our employees, volunteers and donors happier. 


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