Finding Job Satisfaction: Myths and Tips for Employees

by Staff - Original publish date: January 16, 2012

Are you one of the many workers that have intensified their job search in the New Year? According to's 2006/2007 Employee Job Satisfaction Survey, more than 60% of U.S. employees are likely or very likely to leave their jobs in the next three months. The most commonly cited reason for employees wanting to leave their job is inadequate compensation - but boredom, lack of recognition or opportunities for advancement also ranked highly. Those looking to stay in their current positions cited good coworkers, managers and working hours as key to their satisfaction.

The results of the survey illustrate some key factors that impact employee satisfaction and beg the question: Is it about the money, the career path, or the corporate culture?

Finding Job Satisfaction: Myths and Tips for Employees dispels common workplace myths and provides actionable advice for employees seeking greater job satisfaction.

Myth 1: Employers purposefully underpay their employees.

Fact: Most employees are fairly or over paid, and many that believe they are underpaid are wrong.
More than 60% of survey participants stated they were likely to change jobs in the next three months; almost half said the primary reason was because they believe they are underpaid.

The team of Certified Compensation Professionals compared the reported job titles and salaries of 6,481 survey respondents to market pay rates. The results of their analysis indicate that only 22% of employees truly were underpaid (paid well below their fair market value for their job), while almost 15% were overpaid and 33% were paid reasonably close to their fair market value.

Additionally, we found that 30% were likely over-titled. That is, they were being paid far below the market range (less than 70% of their job's market value). This is often a symptom of ambiguous job titles, which can either over-represent the level of a job, or misrepresent the duties of the role, either of which can lead to an inadequate job match and artificially high salary expectations.

Reality of Employee Pay

Source: 2006/07 Employee Job Satisfaction Survey

Over-titling is a practice that was common in the late 1990s when employees were offered a trumped-up job title in lieu of a salary increase. For an over-titled employee this means that the actual job duties may not match the salary level generally associated with their title. Essentially - when it comes to job titles - it's not what you're called it's what you do. If what you do isn't commensurate with the salary for a loftier job title, you will inevitably feel like you're underpaid.

Tip: When considering your compensation, it is important to understand what is factored into your salary and what the fair market value is for your position. Read Knowing What You're Worth to learn how to properly price your job and understand your true market value.

There are a variety of resources that can help you determine what the fair market value is for your position, including the free Salary Wizard which provides HR reported salary data scoped to your geographic location. For a more accurate match of your specific job responsibilities, experience, industry and company size (all important factors in determining a job's value), the Personal Salary Report can help you to understand more precisely what you're worth to your employer.

Myth 2: Employers are not willing to negotiate salary or benefits.

Fact: Many employers are able and willing to negotiate salary or non-compensatory benefits like number of vacation days in order to attract and retain key talent. Many employees have never tried to negotiate their pay or benefits and just assume that it's not worthwhile. The fact is, most employers would rather keep their employees happy in order to retain them than deal with having to hire and train someone new.
Your performance review matters. You must make every effort to ensure each performance review is its best, because it is almost always directly tied to your compensation. If you are unclear about how the results of a performance review impacts merit increases or bonuses - ask your manager.

Losing a valued employee can be a costly process for any company. HR professionals estimate that involuntary turnover costs an average of 33% of the replaced employee's annual base salary. Conventional wisdom suggests that the actual cost could range from a minimum of 50% to several times the incumbent's annual salary, depending on the individual being replaced. Costs like recruiting, training and lost productivity all factor into the end cost for employers.

Your satisfaction impacts the bottom line of your manager's budget. As a valued employee, most employers will be willing to take reasonable steps to ensure that you stay in your job, whether it is through career development, a spot bonus, or increased work/life benefits. Understand your performance ratings (performance review tips)and be able to show your impact on the company to your employer when negotiating a raise or other benefits.

Tip: Your employer wants to keep its high performing employees. If you had a good performance review but are not receiving the pay, benefits or work/life balance you feel you deserve, talk to your employer. If you never voice your concerns, you will never get what you want. Do your homework and make sure you enter into the negotiation with an open mind. Listening to and understanding your employer's policies and programs are critical to having a productive dialogue.

Myth 3: Money buys job satisfaction.

Fact: Many satisfied workers cite several other factors in overall job satisfaction; money tends to be one item out of many and often it is not the most important.

When employees were asked why they stay at their jobs, compensation was seventh and adequate benefits were tied for fourth. The factors at the top of the list are characteristic of good work/life balance and office environment. Things like good managers, coworkers, manageable hours, job security and job challenge were key to many respondents' job satisfaction.

Source: 2006/07 Employee Job Satisfaction Survey
While money isn't everything, it's not nothing. Compensation was cited as primary reason why employees leave a job - but it wasn't a leading factor for why people stay.
Tip: When evaluating your current or a prospective position, consider all factors that will impact your overall satisfaction. Most Americans work five days a week for forty to fifty years, so enjoying that time spent at work is pretty important. Making a lot of money in a job you despise or in an environment that is unpleasant doesn't lead to job satisfaction, even if it does afford you extra cash. Things like vacation time, office environment and work/life balance are more likely to provide you with the work experience you desire.