Money is great, but there are many other paths to happiness at work.
The current U.S. unemployment rate is lower than it's been since the turn of the century, and jobs are plentiful. However, despite an economy that has been on a steady upward trajectory, U.S. wage growth has been much slower. Individual employers are either increasing salaries less frequently, giving smaller increases, or both — much to the chagrin of employees who feel the impact on their bank accounts.
While there many reasons for the disparity between job and wage growth, it's important to keep compensation in proper perspective because, well, money isn't the only thing that matters. In fact, according to research conducted by Glassdoor, compensation is one of the least important factors in regards to workplace happiness. Even if your compensation isn't growing the way you think it should, there are other factors besides money that can keep you satisfied and engaged at work.
A positive environment where you feel empowered to perform at your best is critical to finding happiness at work. Every person is different, and there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the best company culture. If you prefer spending a bulk of your day working independently on analysis, a culture where meetings are not infrequent probably makes you happier. If you love talking to people and brainstorming, a more collaborative, team-based culture might be a better fit. When you're a part of a work culture that's best for you, you can be more productive and more fulfilled.
Opportunities to make an impact
Most people want to be in a job where their work is meaningful and they can make an impact. Some are attracted to larger organizations where there are several opportunities to make a broad impact across functions and geographies. Others prefer smaller or startup organizations where each person has an opportunity to quickly make a big impact. Whatever your preference, when you have opportunities to make your mark and show others your capabilities and strengths, you'll find a niche where you can thrive, be happy, and feel motivated to do your best.
Relationship with your manager
The relationship you have with your manager is certainly one of the most important relationships you have at work that impacts your workplace happiness. Your manager delivers performance expectations and feedback, and he or she can also be one of your biggest supporters. A manager who wants you to succeed can work with you to identify career-development and promotional opportunities. They can also be a source of inspiration and ideas, helping you explore options for improving your engagement and overall job satisfaction.
Relationship with co-workers
Given the sheer number of hours you spend with your co-workers, it makes sense that daily interactions with them have an impact on overall job satisfaction. Whether you enjoy catching up with co-workers to hear about their weekend or bonding with them over a favorite sports team, these relationships can help you feel like part of a team and more connected at work.
Learning and development
One of the keys to long-term career success is continuous learning and development. Whether you're evaluating a new job opportunity or considering options in your current company, the degree to which you can gain new skills and have new experiences will greatly impact your job satisfaction. Career development doesn't only come from training. Job rotations, stretch assignments, and lateral moves can all be instrumental in developing your skills and building self-confidence.
Related: Skills You Can Learn on the Job
Benefits and perks
While some benefits and perks fall into the compensation category, like a company car or a 401k match, others are truly happiness-inducing without ever affecting your pocketbook. Flexible work hours support work-life balance and can help reduce stress and burnout. Perks like wellness programs, support for charitable work, and company social events can also positively impact your job satisfaction. Chances are your company offers some benefits or perks that will make you feel good about where you work.
Your compensation supports your livelihood and measures the value of the work you do, so it's no wonder that compensation is extremely important to most people. Ideally, you should be in a position that compensates you fairly for your contributions, and there's no reason why you shouldn't strive to achieve that goal. If, however, during the current era of sluggish wage growth, you're less than thrilled about your compensation, other elements of your work life can help you feel valued, fulfilled, and optimistic about the future.
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