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Jan-18-2010 18:24printcomments

I Can't Get No Satisfactiion: Or Can I?

The Management Moments series by Doug Dickerson is a weekly column designed to bring inspiration to those in the workplace and beyond.

No satisfaction

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) - The British Invasion may best be remembered with a verse.

In 1965, the Rolling Stones released their hit song, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Satisfaction is the first of eight singles to reach number one in the U.S. The last song to hit number one was Miss You, released in 1978. The Rolling Stones have released more than 50 albums and are one of rock music’s most enduring legends.

I read two interesting articles of late about attitudes in the workplace. And depending on which account you read, satisfaction either abounds or as the Stones’ song suggests, there is no satisfaction.

In a recent report by The Conference Board, the U.S. job satisfaction level in the United States is at a two decade low. According to the report, “based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households conducted for The Conference Board by TNS, finds that only 45 percent of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1 percent in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted.”

Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board says, “The downward trend in job satisfaction could spell trouble for the overall engagement of U.S. employees and ultimately employee productivity.”

The Conference Board research said this downward trend is disturbing in that these numbers “negatively affect employee behavior and retention which directly impacts enterprise-level success.” The research said that 22 percent of the respondents said they don’t expect to be in their current jobs in a year.

A second article I found interesting was from announcing the winners of the best companies to work for. Employee responses were gathered between December 2008 and December 2009 and included questions on career opportunities, compensation, benefits and the ability to balance a work life with a personal life. More than 10,000 companies were considered among 100,000 employees.

The best company to work for in 2009 based upon the responses was Southwest Airlines. Responses from Southwest Airlines employees give insight as to why it’s such a good place to work. “Freedom to be myself and explore the best way to do my job,” writes one employee.

Another says, “The respect that you receive at any rank within the company is not comparable with any other experience I have had to date.”

As impressive as the responses were to employee satisfaction at Southwest Airlines, the approval rating for Vice Chairman and CEO Gary C. Kelly was quite remarkable.

Kelly received a 94 percent approval rating. While there may be many people not satisfied with their jobs, clearly the employees at Southwest Airlines are quite happy with theirs, and their boss.

So what is the game changer between a Southwest Airlines employee who wouldn’t think about leaving his job and the employee who says they won’t be at their current job in a year? Perhaps it’s a subjective question and individual answers would vary according to circumstances and a host of other variables.

I happen to believe that satisfaction in the workplace is attainable, but not a guarantee. The secret rests with the leadership at the helm and the culture they create. Here are three simple principles which I believe can foster a work environment that can lead to satisfaction.

Satisfaction occurs when leadership empowers and trusts its people. Without a foundation of trust for the talents and gifts of the people in your organization, satisfaction can never be achieved. When the people in your organization get the feeling that whatever they accomplish is never enough, or good enough, morale is lost and satisfaction will always remain out of reach.

Satisfaction occurs when excellence is the standard. When excellent service and products is the norm, then satisfaction is a sure thing. In his book, The Fred Factor, my friend Mark Sanborn ( writes, “The things you do, both small and large, cumulatively create a lifestyle that becomes apparent to anybody paying the slightest attention. It’s that kind of example that most influences others.” Excellence is an influence that generates a satisfaction that is contagious.

Satisfaction occurs when communication is strong. Strong communication within your organization is crucial to your success and to your bottom line. A quote from Fortune said, “It’s a shame when people can’t communicate. When they’re managers in your company, it’s a catastrophe.”

The challenge of effective leadership and creating satisfaction in the workplace comes through a leader who is in touch with his people and is communicating with them. A courageous leader is the one who is not afraid to get out of the office. The most effective communication is that which comes through relationship.

While not an exhaustive list of ways in which to build satisfaction in the workplace, it’s a good start. For if you practice these, and try and try and try—there can be satisfaction.

Doug Dickerson is the former editor of the Berkeley Independent newspaper in South Carolina and is currently the director of university relations at Charleston Southern University. Doug’s writing has been recognized by the South Carolina Press Association; having won awards for enterprise reporting, series of articles, and for humor column writing. Doug’s passion for communicating leadership principles and personal development is crystallized through his Management Moment column and leadership columns he writes. Read more of Doug’s columns on his blog at

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Steve January 20, 2010 10:18 am (Pacific time)

I completely agree that satisfaction occurs when leadership empowers and trusts its people. Many employees are afraid to share ideas because of potential retribution; this fear leads to dissatisfied and disengaged employees. We need to find new ways to engage employees in this social media world. It is important to empower employees to share ideas and concerns, and to ultimately initiate positive change in the organization. -Steve Co-Founder,

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