Opinion: The secret to job happiness

Work satisfaction: If this mug sums you up, then your job must be meeting some of the six top characteristics.
Work satisfaction: If this mug sums you up, then your job must be meeting some of the six top characteristics.

Do you enjoy your job and look forward to going to work? If so, the job likely has most or all of the following characteristics:


We want a reasonable amount of challenge in our work. Too much and we get stressed; too little and we get bored.  We usually find new jobs challenging because there is much to learn. Sometimes we need to change jobs or to create new tasks within our job. What kind of tasks? For me, writing a newspaper column was in interesting challenge as part of my work at the University of New England.


We enjoy work when we decide what to do and how to do it and when we depend little on others. Being self-employed often has this characteristic. So does professional work.


Repetitive work can become tedious. Bring on the robots for that! Having a variety of tasks keeps work interesting. Some psychologists treat one client after another. In certain settings, all the clients have substance problems. That set-up would not suit me. I like to switch from treating clients to writing to teaching and so on.

Success potential

Who does not like to succeed? I would not want to coach a professional team that loses most of its games. I want to win! Some jobs give great opportunities to win, for instance, lifesaver, firefighter, detective, and surgeon. They may not win every time, but they know that they often accomplish something. Most teachers see students actually learn; probation officers may see probationers turn their life around. A grocery-store clerk scans 1000 items an hour and makes no mistakes.

Supportive work environment

A work supervisor can help make work pleasurable. Pleasant, helpful supervisors and co-workers are worth their weight in gold. A hypercritical or hostile supervisor can make a job hellish. Backbiting co-workers can drain the joy out of anyone.

Work that suits values, interests, and abilities

If you look forward to going to work, you probably are doing work that suits your values, interests, and abilities. Many individuals with low self-confidence work in jobs that do not use all their abilities. Many individuals work just for money. They cannot wait to go home at the end of a work day. If they look hard at their work, they might find that it is more important than they think. People need food and clothes; the economy needs workers to produce valued goods and services.

How does my work writing this column measure up? It is challenging to write something interesting and useful. I can write about what I want, but I probably need to avoid offending large groups of individuals.

The writing might become tedious if I did it 40 hours a week, but it actually takes only a few hours a fortnight.

Many individuals have told me that they read the column – those comments mean success to a writer.

How many of the good characteristics does your job have?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of New England, Armidale.