In this month’s installment of the “ASQ Influential Voices” blog series, ASQ President Paul Borawski asked, “Are Quality Professionals Happy On the Job?,” citing a study published in Forbes Magazine that named software quality assurance engineer as the “happiest job” in the U.S..
Being “happy” at work is a good thing, but I think we really desire a deeper level of engagement that brings professional satisfaction. As I wrote about here, the subtitle of my book Lean Hospitals now refers to “employee engagement” instead of “employee satisfaction.” I made this change based on my own improved understanding of the difference between satisfaction and engagement.
As I cited from my 2nd edition:
A recent [Blessing White] report defines full engagement as: “an alignment of maximum job satisfaction (‘I like my work and do it well’) with maximum job contribution (‘I help achieve the goals of my organization’)”.
I think quality professionals (including those working with Lean) tend to be generally unsatisfied. We’re taught (or wired) to look at the gap between our current condition and the ideal. I think we tend to be “glass half empty” types, by nature, which probably leads us to be more unhappy than those who are more naturally satisfied with the “glass half full.” An engineer would point out the glass is ALWAYS full, even if it’s half full with air, but that’s a different discussion.
From my own experience, I can handle the gap between current and ideal as long as we’re making progress. Having senior leaders that support and help drive real improvement lead to an environment where quality professionals can be happy and engaged. There’s nothing worse than being in an organization where seniors don’t care about quality or where they just give it lip service.
I’ve talked to many Lean professionals who are frustrated with their hospital’s leadership. Being problem solvers, the quality professionals want to try to fix things. But, if the root cause of the organization’s poor quality (and lack of improvement) is out of their control, it’s often better to leave for greener pastures than to stay put and be miserable. Too many organizations try to “buy” happiness (through perks, bonuses, etc) instead of addressing the issues that would interfere with a person being aligned with achieving the organization’s goal (and hopefully a deeper mission and purpose).
Would you describe yourself as being generally “happy” in your work? Are you engaged rather than satisfied? Which do you desire?
p.s. Be sure to check out the special charity auctions I am running through May 6
About LeanBlog.org: Mark Graban is a consultant, author, and speaker in the “lean healthcare” methodology. Mark is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as the new Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. Mark is also the VP of Innovation and Improvement Services for KaiNexus.