Are quality professionals happy in their jobs? This was the question posed to ASQ’s Influential Voices last month, sparked by this article in Forbes that named software quality engineers as the happiest professionals in the U.S.
The answer appears to be yes…and no. The Influential Voices cited the satisfaction of working to ensure quality in their organizations, products, and processes. Many drew from personal experience, but also looked to psychology, management philosophy, and beyond.
Key factors for job happiness:
Manu Vora looks back on his personal experience in school and in his career, recognizing that good teachers and job mentors made him happy at work. Jimena Calfa, a software quality engineer, also draws on her experience on the job, and cites satisfying challenges and relationships with her boss and co-workers as key to her happiness on the job.
Robert Mitchell says he is indeed happy on the job—and credits mentors, autonomy, and, yes, his ASQ membership and involvement. Rajan Thiyagarajan also writes about networking opportunities and workshops, including one hosted by ASQ in our headquarters in Milwaukee, Wis., as key to his happiness. David Levy and Aimee Siegler analyze the variety of factors that go into job happiness—from engaging work to compensation to the commute.
Statistician Laura Freeman has a simple answer to what makes her happy at work: Statistics! The work is interesting and the field is ranked “as being one of the best in the country in terms of compensation, job satisfaction, and employment opportunities.” And Guy Wallace has some fun with this question by looking to a classic comedy routine for the answer.
The importance of quality culture:
Mark Graban recommends working for an organization that truly values quality: “Being problem solvers, the quality professionals want to try to fix things. But, if the root cause of the organization’s poor quality (and lack of improvement) is out of their control, it’s often better to leave for greener pastures than to stay put and be miserable.” Nergis Solomyez agrees. “Working with a group of people who share the same views on quality and an organization that embraces continuous improvement are must-haves for job satisfaction in quality,” she writes.
Likewise, for Chris Hermenitt, a quality culture says is essential to job happiness. “I think that quality as an idea needs to be more integrated into the business rather than as a separate concept.” Scott Rutherford writes that breaking through the barriers of poor management is important for a quality professional’s happiness. On a related note, quality professionals must work through the inevitable frustration in the quality field, says John Hunter. “I think the field does have a fairly high level of frustration as many are stuck in systems that are moving much too slowly to improve management practices. This is the biggest concern I find from most in the quality improvement field.”
What makes us happy?
Deborah Mackin looks to the work of Frederick Herzberg, a motivational theorist who identified competency, choice, progress and meaningfulness as key factors in job happiness.
John Priebe draws from the book, “The Great Workplace by Michael Burchell and Jennifer Robin,” for the five factors in job happiness: 1) credibility, 2) respect, 3) fairness, 4) pride, and 5) camaraderie. Jennifer Stepniowski also looks to psychological theory (including Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) and cites four factors in job happiness: Dynamic, autonomy, meaning, and respect. Sameer Chougle suggests four more factors: Is the work interesting, frustrating, rewarding, and challenging?
Speaking of Maslow, Dr. Lotto Lai conducted a survey of quality professionals in Hong Kong, and used Maslow’s five-level hierarchy to analyze the results. (The five levels are physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization.) Freedom and challenges equate to happiness at work, Dr. Lai found.
And Anshuman Tiwari reflects on what makes quality professionals happy—as opposed to other professionals. He writes: “Quality professionals appear to be happy when they are involved in improvement projects and their inputs are valued and appreciated. I have come to realize that a quality professional generally is more emotional than the ones in sales and operations.”
Whose job is it to make us happy?
Cesar Diaz Guevara writes that be happy in quality, one must want to make a difference—rather than having to do it. The quality field is what you make it, says Tim McMahon, so make it good. ”Quality assurance is all about character, courage, activism and passion representing the moral qualities, ethical standards and principles to fight for quality.”
Nicole Radziwill says we have it within our power to make the entire organization happier. “As improvement specialists, I suggest that as quality professionals, we are perfectly situated to use our skills to help everyone in an organization become happier… and thus more productive!”
Dr. Robert Burney, in the meantime, suggests that happiness is a relative term. Perhaps, he writes, we should look to happiness outside of work. Interestingly, Kerrie Anne Christian interviews her husband, a IT quality manager, about what makes him happy at work, coming to the conclusion that: “Happiness at work helps for happiness at home – and vice versa.”
So—are you happy on the job? Do you agree with the Influential Voices? Let me know in the comments. I hope this conversation helps to inspire and encourage quality professionals to raise their voice.