Finding Happiness at Work

Part 1: A Cocktail of Efficiency?

In Romance languages, the words referring to “work” come from the word trepalium, commonly translated as “instrument of torture”. However, our happiness depends in large part on our work. And, as Steve Jobs used to say, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” One particular study developed a comprehensive model of professional commitment. This model traces a virtuous circle centered on the committed worker, but it remains simplistic. Indeed, today, employee suicides in the workplace have become a recognized societal problem about which occupational psychologists have begun to enlighten us. Now, studies allow us to better understand the complex machinery of the relationship between employees and their work. In a pair of articles, we’ll break down the different elements involved in being happy in your work.

In Romance languages, the words referring to “work” come from the word trepalium, commonly translated as “instrument of torture”. However, our happiness depends in large part on our work. And, as Steve Jobs used to say, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” One particular study developed a comprehensive model of professional commitment. This model traces a virtuous circle centered on the committed worker, but it remains simplistic. Indeed, today, employee suicides in the workplace have become a recognized societal problem about which occupational psychologists have begun to enlighten us. Now, studies allow us to better understand the complex machinery of the relationship between employees and their work. In a pair of articles, we’ll break down the different elements involved in being happy in your work.

1 - Finding Happiness at Work, Part 1: A Cocktail of Efficiency?
2 - Finding Happiness at Work, Part 2: The Complex Machinery of Suffering at Work

This article is a translation of “Le bonheur au travail, cocktail de l’efficacité ?” It was translated from French by Timothée Froelich.

Métiers représentations
Workers © julien Tromeur - Fotolia.com

 

Professional commitment

According to the work of William A. Kahn, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Boston University’s School of Management, the professional commitment of a person is expressed through his or her physical, cognitive, and emotional involvement in his or her professional activity. Externally, this translates into the energy deployed to achieve one’s tasks and by the immersion of the person in his or her professional activities. The consequences of professional commitment can be seen in terms of energy, efficiency, autonomy, and personal satisfaction.

 

“Enthusiastic employees excel in their work because they maintain a balance between the energy they give and the energy they receive.” - Prof. Dr. A. Bakker

 

A survey published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science describes a global model of professional commitment based on a summary of various works on personal motivation, professional context and involvement, and efficiency. The Job Demands-Resources Model  (JD-R), developed by A. Bakker and E. Demerouti in 2007 and 2008, provides a digital platform dedicated to the analysis of the causes and consequences of professional commitment, and gathers various theoretical studies on the subject. The model can be used by HR managers in order to, first, quantify the level of employee commitment, and then to develop and stimulate the professional commitment efforts put forth by this model.

This schema, then, provides opportunities to positively incite motivation, implication, and productivity in a person or a team by taking advantage of inspiring incentives, and not negative ones, such as sanctions. However, this model remains both exaggerated and simplistic.

ressource de travail The Job Demands-Resources model shows a virtuous
circle centered on professional commitment.

The professional environment encourages involvement in work

Although all jobs are very different emotionally, physically, and psychologically, many studies have determined two categories generally encompassing the factors of professional commitment, whatever the job in question is.

First, the notion of professional resources includes support from coworkers, feedback on performance, the variety of skills used, autonomy, and learning opportunities. Several works point out that professional resources allow one to diminish the psychological and physiological efforts required to carry out one’s tasks, which leads to enhancing the efficiency of achieving these tasks, and, in the end, to promoting personal development. Thus, they are, at the same time, both performance tools and motivational factors.

Some studies add to the list of professional resources: regular change, opportunities to be creative, acceptance of personal initiative, and positive feedback. Professor Bakker emphasizes that professional resources especially encourage professional commitment at times of higher demands (project completion, heavy workload).

Self-esteem promotes professional efficiency

Second, personal resources are also involved in work commitment. Positive self-esteem is the major element in this category. It has been shown that good self-esteem leads to better motivation, the setting of clear objectives, better personal and professional satisfaction, and better resistance to major blows and obstacles; in other words, all personal elements encouraging work performance and efficiency.

Several studies confirm that employees committed to their work are independently efficient, because they trust in their own ability to achieve these goals. They also have a tendency to be optimistic and aware of the benefits they receive from participating actively in their working life.

A general model of professional commitment

To sum up, professional and personal resources are closely related and help employees feel committed to their work. This commitment is a guarantee of performance and efficiency, especially at times of high demand. In a follow-up article, we’ll look at what happens when something goes wrong in the machinery of feeling happy at work and leads, instead, to suffering in one’s job.

 

“Work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Steve Jobs, Stanford University commencement address, 2005

 

Find out more:

Key questions regarding work engagement, Bakker, A. B., Albrecht, S. L. and Leiter, M. P., European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 20: 1, 4 – 28 (2011), http://www.beanmanaged.eu/pdf/articles/arnoldbakker/article_arnold_bakker_234.pdf 

Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work, W. A. Kahn, Academy of Management journal 33 : 4, 692 (1990), http://www.jstor.org/pss/256287 

Blog of Prof. A. Bakker, http://www.arnoldbakker.com/jdrmodel.php 

Work Engagement, Job Satisfaction, and Productivity—They’re a Virtuous Cycle, http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/work-engagement-job-satisfaction-and-productivitytheyre-a-virtuous-cycle.html

 

Sources :

An evidence-based model of work engagement, A. B. Bakker, Invited paper of Current Directions in Psychological Science vol. 20 no. 4 265-269 (2011) http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/20/4/265.abstract

Souffrance et plaisir au travail, Christophe Dejours (work psycho-dynamicist and psychanalyst) http://cogito.no-ip.info/cogito/tutoriel/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=144:christophe-dejours-psycho-dynamicien-du-travail-et-psychanalyste-souffrance-et-plaisir-au-travail&catid=18:a-voir&Itemid=82