Job satisfaction – What’s really important?

For the past week, the most viewed article on The Chronicle of Philanthropy website has been “Nonprofit Employers Don’t Meet Workers’ Needs for Job Satisfaction, Surveys Find.”  The article was based on recent reports published by Professionals for Nonprofits, which surveyed nonprofit workers about job satisfaction.  The survey did find that 75% of surveyed nonprofit workers in New York and Washington D.C. reported that their career has been “only mildly fulfilling or disappointing.” But beyond the measure of satisfaction, the survey collected valuable information nonprofit leaders can use to recruit and support employees.

The three reports, published by Professionals for Nonprofits, featured survey results from nonprofit employees and job seekers in Washington, D.C., New York and New Jersey. The reports include results of surveys conducted in the three metro areas in regards to what factors are important to nonprofit workers in their jobs.  Although there were minor differences between the three metro areas, the principle messages were consistent in all three metro areas for employees and job seekers.

What employees want…
The top requirement for employees, according to the survey, are respect, trust, support by management and that the organization has a compelling mission.  Employees and job seekers want to have the respect and trust of their supervisors and want to work towards achieving something they believe is important.

This does jive with my experience working at nonprofits. I can honestly say I have never applied for a job at an organization whose mission is not in line with my core beliefs and values. My work has always meant more to me than making widgets; it has been about making a difference in the lives of others, in a way that I feel is important.  I agree that a compelling mission is important for employees and job seekers.

I can also say I have had much higher levels of satisfaction at work when I feel that I am respected and supported by my supervisor.  I become frustrated at work when my opinions are not valued or respected by my supervisor.  As Aretha Franklin would say,
all I want is “just a little bit of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

When hiring new employees, nonprofit leaders should keep in mind that job seekers are looking for a nonprofit with a compelling mission and an environment in which they are respected, trusted and supported by management.

What employees get…
The survey also asked respondents about their current employer and work environment. Of the survey respondents, 3 out of 4 employees said internal politics interferes with work.

This is a huge red flag for the nonprofit industry.  The survey shows that employees want to work for an organization they believe has a compelling mission and in which they are respected, trusted and supported by management – but in reality, 75% of those employees say internal politics interferes with their work.  Employees want respect and instead, they are faced with interference with their work due to internal politics. Nonprofit leaders need to take note of the significant issue workplace politics has grown to become in the nonprofit sector.

What we must do…
Nonprofit leaders must make strides towards curbing the internal politics that interfere with employees’ ability to do their jobs.  Instead of worrying about if casual dress is allowed at the office, if an office has windows or childcare is offered (all which were ranked as the least essential issues/least critical issues for employees), nonprofit leaders must address the internal politics that interfere with work.

Here are some tips to curb the internal politics interfering with work:

  • Communicate:  It is important for leaders to create an environment that fosters open communication.  By engaging in honest dialogue, leaders can eliminate the need for back-channel communication in the workplace.  And when you communicate, remember what you learned in kindergarten… treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • Get everyone on the same team:  It may sound basic, but remind all employees the reason we are working – to fulfill our organization’s mission.  Leaders need to remind employees to focus on a common goal.  Leaders then need to foster teamwork to work towards the goals, and celebrate the successes towards fulfilling the goal.  By engaging in team building activities, nonprofit leaders can focus employees on a common vision and encourage cooperation towards meeting the goal.
  • Eliminate the pot-stirrer:  We’ve all worked with one of these in the past… the person in the office that is always stirring the pot and creating drama among the employees.  They are gossipers, and they create tension and stir up issues.  It is important for leaders to address the pot-stirrer by confronting him/her, and if the situation is not resolved, it may be time for the pot-stirrer to find somewhere else to work. You don’t need to have them bring your entire team down, it may be time to support a new career opportunity for them, outside your organization.

Nonprofit leaders must make strides in decreasing the negative impact internal politics have on the workplace in order to successfully attract and retain employees.  Employees want to work at an organization that has a compelling mission and where they are respected by management; internal politics can jeopardize the job satisfaction of nonprofit employees.

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About Dr. Sarah Wolin Mackey

Putting theory into practice at nonprofit organizations.
This entry was posted in Human Resources, Nonprofit Management and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Job satisfaction – What’s really important?

  1. Pingback: Are you a Doer or a Thinker? | Sarah W Mackey

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