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Many folks are “making a living” yet lack a sense of “purpose” or “meaning” in what they do. Rather than explore the nature of their dissatisfaction by reflecting on the deeper reasons for their frustration, they prefer to find fault with externals: the education and training programs, the health and pension programs (albeit, today often quite justifiable), management, workplace environmental conditions, etc. They’re driving themselves to their own spiritual, mental, emotional, psychological and physical poorhouse in new expensive, automobiles, eating at smart restaurants, watching plasma TVs, absorbed in the latest, greatest “gadget” – all the while bemoaning the reality of increased stress, overwork, overwhelm, and an environment polluted by industry. They allow themselves to be devoured by the corporation and spend relentless amounts of energy and time scratching and clawing their way up the corporate ladder to achieve corporate success, to be “somebody.”

Unhealthy sacrifice
On the way, they set aside their dreams (once, real dreams) and tailor their lives and personalities to what the market demands. They practice the arts of “power dressing,” power lunching, having or creating “winning personalities,” all the while steeped in a state of emptiness, leading to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. In order to be “somebody,” they burn out without ever having been on fire.

The nature of dissatisfaction
What is it about work that leads so many to be dissatisfied?

A special issue of Time Magazine (1/17/2005) featured an article about what is known as “reference anxiety” ­ “keeping up with the Joneses” ­ constantly comparing one’s self and one’s “stuff” with someone else’s. Much of this takes place in (but is not restricted to) work environments and is characteristic of many of today’s workplace cultures.

This “reference anxiety” syndrome even accounts for the gap in income distribution. The Time article states:

“Paradoxically, it is the very increase in money . . . that triggers dissatisfaction [. . .] clinical depression is 3 to 10 times as common today than two generations ago . . . money jangles in our wallets and purses, but we are no happier for it, and for many, more money leads to depression. [. . .] millions of us spend more time and energy pursuing the things money can buy than engaging in activities that create real fulfillment in life . . . ”

Perhaps the dissatisfaction element lies on a much deeper level of the psyche: it’s about the inner person, not about the externals.

In other words, it’s not the work that’s at cause when it comes to worker dissatisfaction.

It’s curious that of the thousands of business books that are published each year, there’s hardly one chapter devoted to friendship in the workplace (real and true friendship, not the “good-old-boys, back-slapping stuff,” that is a faux substitute. (And a bit of information: did you know that when two folks come together and pat each other on the back, it’s because they cannot connect emotionally? When two folks honestly and sincerely connect, from their deeper self, from their heart, from a place of true love and connection, they hug and hold one another…they don’t pat one another’s back. Patting is a “faux” form of connection.).

Relationships rule the world, even the world of work. Finding meaning rules one’s deeper sense of happiness, fulfillment, and well-being, even in the world of work. It’s relationships, first with yourself, then with others, that must be examined to explore the true and real root causes of employee dissatisfaction.

The spirit of an organization begins and ends with the spirit of each individual. When we come to life with the right values, we are grounded on a foundation of truth, honesty, sincerity, and self-responsibility, and from this place, dissatisfaction can more easily morph into satisfaction.

So, really, really, why is worker satisfaction falling?

Perhaps it starts with “me,” not with “it,” “him/her” or “them.”

Some questions for self-reflection:
Am I constantly comparing myself to others and feeling I’m coming up short? How so?
Do I feel like a victim of life/work much of the time? Why?
Do I have true and real friendships at work?
Could I be contributing to my own dissatisfaction at work? If so, how? Honestly.
Do I have an expectation that my company or manager is responsible for my happiness at work?
What is it about work that excites me? If nothing or, “not much,” then why do I choose to remain there? How might I proactively turn this around?
What personal and professional goals have I set for myself at work If I don’t have any, could that contribute to my unhappiness?
Do I find meaning in my work? If not, why not?
Do I shop incessantly, max out my credit cards on stuff, and still feel empty and unhappy? Why?
What lessons did I learn about myself at work last year? I did learn some lessons, didn’t I? How can I leverage these lessons to increase my satisfaction at work this year?
What mutually-supportive relationships and true friendships do I want to cultivate at work?
What self-defeating habits do I want to eliminate?
Are there toxic people in my life at work (or at home) who contribute to my unhappiness?
Who can I serve, support, coach or mentor that will bring me satisfaction or increase my happiness at work?
How have I grown at work during the past year? I have grown in some positive way, haven’t I? If not, why not?
What one or two baby steps can I take this week or this month that can increase my satisfaction at work?
What did I learn about satisfaction and the world of work when I was growing up? How so?
(c) 2016, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.  Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, or pvajda(at)

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.