Our employment work space is rapidly changing due to the unprecedented pace of technology. Twenty years ago, personal computers were not business relevant; today, the computer is indispensable. Fifteen years ago, the internet was not commercially viable; today, 47% of the world’s population uses the internet. One day we find ourselves discussing the possibilities associated with having driverless cars “someday” in the future; the next moment we have numerous automobile companies announcing they are prepared to roll out autonomous vehicles — while educational institutions offer technical certificates of learning for people who want to find themselves on the cutting edge of the new technology.
Businesses are continually being forced to innovate and change to maintain the accelerated pace, or witness their own downward spiral and demise. The same holds true with employees.
As organizations focus on survival and growth, they are abdicating their prior responsibility for employee career learning and development. As a result, employees are increasingly being asked — either explicitly or implicitly — to assume responsibility for their own learning and development.
As a result, the authors believe that when employees find themselves dissatisfied at work it is a positive, because that insight sends a strong message that a serious self-examination is in order, for themselves, and perhaps even for their employing organization and management.
We have found that the experience of having to deal with dissatisfaction in the work space is something relatively new for many employees. As a result, it is important that incumbent employees identify and learn how to pay close attention to their existing levels of dissatisfaction, and then determine the specific source (or sources) underlying that dissatisfaction.
Widespread dissatisfaction and retention challenges may require organization-wide interventions. Other times, employees and their managers can view sources of dissatisfaction as opportunities for self-learning, growth and development.
We have found that when dissatisfaction levels are found to be minimal, and have only occurred recently, there is little reason for major concern. In contrast, when the dissatisfaction level seems to be deep-seated and does not seem to be changing or going away, employees’ concern levels should transition quickly from the “back burner” to the “very front burner” of their attention.
So, the question becomes how to recognize when dissatisfaction indicates a temporary misalignment, or a call for a career change. To begin to answer this question, we propose that the employee take an abbreviated self inventory to quickly measure their existing level of job dissatisfaction.
We propose 14 questions which can help you quickly diagnose your dissatisfaction and its intensity level by scoring each question on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being “Strongly Agree” and 1 being “Strongly Disagree.” It is important that you answer each question, and be brutally honest in your assessment, since you are the only one who will see the results. We also suggest that you err on the side of being conservative rather than trying to be artificially optimistic in your answers.
- I am highly technically skilled and deeply knowledgeable in all areas of my job requirements
- I am constantly vigilant in keeping my technical skills up to date and they are not beginning to become obsolete or outdated
- I am continually being asked to contribute to the cutting edge of product development technologically, and to resolve difficult issues relevant to my job
- My manager and organization are providing me the opportunity to use my best current technical skills on a continual basis
- A gap is not developing between my current technical skill set and those needed by the company
- I am not being relegated to less-challenging assignments and tasks than previously
- I am personally stimulated and continually learn new skills on my own to enhance my job contributions
- I am being continually challenged to learn new things in my job by my boss and/or team members
- I am making a rewarding and fulfilling contribution in my current job
- My relationships at work energize me and are gratifying
- I love my career and find great personal satisfaction in what I am doing
- I believe I have very good job security with my job and organization
Financial and Mobility Considerations:
- I see opportunities to move horizontally or vertically within my organization in the future
- I am pleased with my total compensation and benefits
If you score each of these questions on a 1 to 10 basis with 10 being your Strongest Agreement, and 1 being your Strongest Disagreement, you will have calculated a score between 14 and 140. In some cases, your score will only mean changing or enhancing a few things. In other cases, it may require more of a “reinvention” of your technical skills. Each case is different and unique.
Motivation for change increases as you became aware of dissatisfaction and its sources. And unless dissatisfaction is strongly present, you will likely stay in your existing status quo and not change. That is why we believe awareness is the first step to improvement.
By discovering and utilizing dissatisfaction in this manner, dissatisfaction can become a major positive, because it creates a strong motivator for self-awareness and beginning the process of analyzing your levels of dissatisfaction and considering the need to potentially “reinvent” yourself in your career.
If you score 112 or above, it is likely that (a) you are keeping your technical skills continually updated; (b) and/or you are positively contributing to company objectives through your job efforts; (c) your contributions are being recognized by your manager and teammates; (d) you are pleased and satisfied with your hiring organization and how you are being treated; and/or (e) your employer is pleased with you and your contributions.
If your score is between 90 and 111, it may mean that (a) your technological skills are no longer cutting edge; (b) your skills are beginning to decline; and (c) while you are still being given challenging technical assignments, they are given to you less frequently than they were. This score means that while you are still solidly in favor with your organization, you need to become aware that you are no longer operating at your company’s cutting edge, which means you need to determine if you are or are not satisfied with such an organizational perception — and what you plan to do about it.
A score between 70 and 89 can mean that (a) your technical skills are “falling out of favor” with your manager and/or teammates; (b) you have already been relegated to less challenging and far more mundane job assignments; (c) you are being sent a signal that your skills are declining; and (d) that you need to become aware and quickly take action to enhance your skill set before it is too late.
A score of 70 or less indicates that your technical skills (a) have already eroded according to your job requirements; (b) you are no longer positively contributing to your organizational unit; and (c) your manager and/or teammates are aware of the decline in your contributions and are making efforts to exclude you. Bottom line: you need to seriously analyze and proactively re-consider your career, place of employment, and what you are going to do at this stage. In other words, there is no time on your part to procrastinate and “hope” things in your work space will, on their own, change in your favor. Instead, you must proactively become your own entrepreneur, or manager, responsible for your own career and development — because there are no other options. A score of 70 or less, in today’s business environment, generally means that a major reinvention of yourself and your career is in order.
In future articles, we will articulate how to take charge of your own development; and how to create a plan of action that the boss will positively subscribe to and support.
Richard A. Feller, MBA, Ph.D., has personally reinvented himself several times. He began in academia, first as a faculty member, then dean at a comprehensive technical and liberal arts two-year institution that was later identified as a national model by the U.S. Department of Education. From here, he joined a Fortune 50 company with responsibility for the executive, managerial, and technical education for 7,000 employees; quickly followed by his transition to a corporate level executive position responsible for change management, strategic and succession planning for global electronics technology at the Fortune 50 Company. Following this experience, responsible for enterprise wide change, he teamed with the CEO of a Fortune 200 semiconductor business in Silicon Valley, and assisted the organization to transition from a $500m loss and near bankruptcy to being recognized as the Turnaround Company of the Year. Next, as the CEO of a software company, he crafted the turnaround of the technological organization into a global force. Next, he was the CEO of a business which specialized in the design and build of multi-million dollar, single family, certified green technology “smart” homes in the Washington, D.C. area. He is currently the CEO of Future Job, Inc., a company specializing in technology talent and jobs, especially with the utilization of IT apprenticeships.
Peggy G. Hutcheson, Ph.D., has reinvented herself from being a working journalist, to corporate manager, and then entrepreneur and academic. Dr. Hutcheson is best known for her expertise in connecting employees to changing work roles through organizational and individual career development. In her work she consults, trains and manages large and small client projects for businesses, non-profits and government agencies. She has published numerous articles, e-books and essays on career development topics including Restoring Career Development: Developing and Managing Talent, and many others. She is currently on the faculty at Kennesaw State University. Dr. Hutcheson has served in a number of volunteer roles in IEEE-USA. Currently she is a member of the IEEE-USA Communications Committee and the IEEE-USA Employment and Career Services Committee, where she is a past committee chair.