What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

kids dressed as pilot and doctor

From a Study of 12,000 Workers, Discover What Makes People Happy in the Workplace


As a child, possibilities seem endless. You stare stargazed at the air hostess in her smart uniform and flawless face. You wonder what your heart sounds like though the stethoscope as the doctor presses the diaphragm onto your chest and take a deep breath in. As time goes on, you have the edges knocked off you. At 17 or 18 the dreaded Leaving Cert injects you with a lethal dose of anxiety lasting over a decade later through nightmares of losing your voice during the Irish oral.

Deciding on what you wanted to do for the rest of your life with the tail-end of teenage hormones racing through your system seemed like a good idea at the time, but you made a few mistakes since then and that’s ok. It’s ok to have changed your mind ten times over and try out new things. Mistakes are the stepping stones to a more fulfilling life, once we learn from them. So where are you now? Where did the path of life take you? Does your job leave you feeling fulfilled? What exactly makes you happy in a job? Is a job just a job and are we asking a lot to want to spring out of bed every morning and be excited about going in? ““It’s not just about money,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half. Dr. McDonald conducted a survey of 12,000 workers in a dual effort.”

The survey highlighted three areas as being top priority when it comes to motivating employees. Those are culture, respect and pride. But when it comes to happiness, there are 10 ingredients which make for the perfect place to work.

  1. Autonomy

    Since we were children, most of us have been from institution to institution in what is deemed by society to be the correct way for us to learn, grow and develop relationships… school. When to speak, when to eat, when to play and when to go home. By granting us autonomy as employees, we are given back a sense of freedom, control, empowerment and trust. We are essentially being told that we are adults capable of making our own decisions and not only that but capable of making good decisions which will steer our organisation in the right direction. This fundamental gift to employees goes far further than the reward of financial gain.

  1. Work that is Challenging

    If we don’t challenge our bodies’ during a workout, our fitness level plateaus, it will never increase. Our brains are a muscle that need be challenged in order to develop and grow. Challenging ourselves to achieve a level greater than what we did previously is also beneficial to our mental health. It increases our self esteem and confidence when we execute a goal which is challenging.

  2. Variety and Flexibility

    The flexibility to work from home is a trending topic. Studies show that productivity often increases when employees work from the comfort of their own home. In an in depth study by Harvard Business School which examined WFA programs, it was shown that “examiners who from anywhere saw their work output increase by 4.4 percent, while quality of work held up, representing up to $1.3 billion of annual added value” This comes down again to autonomy. Giving employees the freedom to decide where they work from will increase their sense of freedom and in turn increase happiness leading to higher productivity. A repetitive job becomes mundane and uninteresting. By taking on tasks which vary, and which challenge our creativity and thirst for knowledge, our brains keep buzzing and stay engaged.

  1. Significance and a Sense of Progress

    Firstly, being in an organisation which is aligned with what you see as morally important will make you more content in being there. Does your organisation support Pride Week, International Women’s Day, The Special Olympics? Does it encourage recycling and sustainability? These are examples of major societal affairs and by an organisation being mindful of them, they make their employees feel they are contributing socially also. Secondly making employees aware that they are making progress within their own career and making a significant contribution to the organisation as a whole will increase morale and self-esteem.

  2. No Fear

    Gone are the days when an authoritative boss who leads through fear and an iron fist is acceptable in the workplace. We have come to realise that a collaborative, emotionally intelligent leader who encourages their employees and who has an open-door policy is far more personable and inspiring. According to Jim Collins, teacher and advisor to leaders in business, an effective ‘level 5 leader’ has humility and doesn’t seek success for their own glory but sees success as necessary so that their team and organization can thrive.

  1. Support and Opportunity

    A framework of goals and guidelines without micromanaging supports autonomy while giving employees structure and the required pressure to push people to reach targets. An environment where a team are in tune with each other and supportive of each other will create a productive hub of happy employees. By having a clear progression path, employees are naturally motivated to challenge and push themselves further.

  1. Recognition

    There is a natural emphasis on praising and encouraging children and this is not something we lose the need for as adults. “According to one study, 82% of polled employees are more satisfied with their jobs when they receive recognition.” Recognition is a huge morale booster in the workplace and a vital ingredient in making happy staff. Correlating the type of recognition and reward with the size of the achievement shows thoughtful consideration by employers and will boost satisfaction and encourage meaningful contributions amongst employees. A simple thank you or lunch voucher for a continued job done well can be the most uplifting part of an employee’s week.

  2.  Fairness

    Equal pay, equal opportunities, a balance of gender, age and an acceptance of race, religion, sexual orientation and disability. It might seem like employers have a lot to consider but a simple policy to accept people for who they are and employ and promote based on ability and work ethic will go a long way. Implementing a clear redress for bullying within the workplace is also vital for employees’ sense of safety and wellbeing.

  3. A Sense of Belonging

    Feeling that you ‘fit in’ at work has been proven to be a major factor when it comes to feeling happy at work. A huge part of this is feeling that you have people around you that understand you. An employee who is a good fit culturally is far more likely to stay in a job. We spend a big part of our lives in work and those who have a good friend at work are more likely to be productive and engaged. Encouraging ‘kudos’ amount employees and organising team-building and social outings can forge long-lasting and meaningful relationships at work.

  1. Benefits and Perks

    Google is known for its adventurous perks like free food, wine and beer on Fridays and bring your pet to work offices. Other more sensible benefits include free healthcare, onsite gyms and of course the crowd-pleasing bonus. Perks are to grownups what free toys in cereal are to kids, exciting!


Adapted from the article: https://www.inc.com/john-rampton/what-makes-people-happy-when-they-work.html by John Rampton