Thursday, September 09, 2010

ABCs of Job Satisfaction

Today let's revisit the topic of From Whence We Derive Our Job Satisfaction, assuming that there is job satisfaction being derived.

So, for those of you who enjoy your jobs (academic or otherwise), is the source of your feeling of job-enjoyment related at least in part to:

A. your department (or non-academic equivalent)?; i.e., a unit larger than your immediate research/work group, but within your institution);

B. your more distant professional environment? In the academic example, this would be people in your research field who are not in your department.

C. your own work and/or that of your immediate research group?

There are other possibilities than those listed (e.g., I am, for once, not mentioning cats), but for these options, typical answers might be:

A-B-C (for people quite content with their professional environment)

A ± C but not B; or B ± C but not A.

c would be unfortunate if it were not combined with A or B, but that would at least be better than deriving no job satisfaction at all.

I wonder what the most common situation is. From scattered comments to blog posts over the years, there has been a persistent mention of B-but-not-A.

My answers to this question have varied with time. I was in a C-only situation very early in my career (grad school/postdoc), and was briefly in an A-C situation in my first tenure-track job when I was happy in my department but had yet to establish a reputation in my field and was finding it difficult to get the respect of a certain close network of older (male) professors in my field (solution: publish a lot, get grants, find a research niche).

Then there were some B-C times in which I wasn't particularly happy in my department, but I was otherwise doing well professionally and enjoying my research and research group.

Now I'd say A-B-C, but it took a while to get there.

30 comments:

Math postdoc said...

I've been lucky enough to have ABC since fairly early on in grad school. There have been people at each level I dislike (sometimes intensely), but they are a minority and I've been able to avoid them enough that they're not a problem.

My unhappiest times professionally have come during unproductive periods, when my research is stuck and often also begins to feel meaningless and so I lose C, although I have always appreciated a supportive environment from the A and B people.

Anonymous said...

B-C, for sure...

Anonymous said...

B-C but not A

Anonymous said...

For more junior people (grad students, postdocs, maybe beginning faculty) I think there's a split between:

C1) My own research

C2) The research of my immediate group

As a postdoc I've found myself in a position of being happy with me personal research, but frustrated by the research in my lab.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

You left out "university outside department", which can be very important for some people.

Three years ago I would have said A+B+C, but due to lack of funding, my lab has imploded. I have one unfunded grad student left and I'm losing interest in the field I've been in for the past 15 years, and looking for other problems to work on.

Anonymous said...

B and C, weighted slightly towards C. Certainly not A. I aspire to ABC, though.

Engineering Graduate Student said...

"From Whence" is redundant and a frustrating mistake made over and over again on TV and in Hollywood.

"Whence" already means "from where," or "from which."

Average Professor said...

For me, it's A+B±C. My departmental colleagues are really fantastic. There are a few stinkers but even those people have enough redeeming qualities that you can work with and be friendly with them. Liking (and respecting) the people I am around on a daily basis is huge for me.

I also have a great group of grad students (why I included C) but my enthusiasm & interest in the research comes and goes (why it got a ±).

Candid Engineer said...

A&B are good for me, but they by no means dominate my work-related happiness. My happiness is 95% derived from C, but this is probably because I am a postdoc- I work on a project that I love, and I have a wonderful, large lab network with lots of great colleagues. But I don't interact with any department, as we are not in physical proximity to my department, and I only get out for conferences maybe once or twice a year.

mOOm said...

C+B. For most of my career the department I'm in has seemed a pretty arbitrary grouping of people I've had to work with. Sometimes it's been nic socially but not really a peer group careerwise. A university is just a provider of resources like library access for me. I like to say I'm associated with a respected university but I don't really feel any loyalty to the institution.

Slant said...

A: Mildly satisfied
B: Satisfied
C: not currently satisfied, but working on it.

a physicist said...

C first: I love my research and my research group.

B second: I enjoy conferences and talking with my friends and colleagues there.

A third: I'm lucky to be in a pretty decent department. Some of the jerks have retired, that helps. But when they were around, I took consolation in the fact that they didn't affect "C", my enjoyment of my research group.

And as someone else commented, I also enjoy my colleagues in other departments at my school.

Female Science Professor said...

but I like how it sounds

Anonymous said...

C and some B. Not A.

Anonymous said...

Grad student. A-C. In that order.

Anonymous said...

reasonably happy with A. Problem is with upper admin, who refuses to address salary inversion and lack of resources/space/cost share for grants (but has no problem hiring perceived superstars for literally millions- old men who come here bringing their prestige, but alas, seem to lose their funding within 2 years; or matching outside offers. Our Dean has said that he knows the older assistant profs/recent associates are underpaid by 20K, but he's not going to address that). I'm doing better with B, but still suffering from working on too many unrelated things. C is finally coming along, thanks to massive funding that enabled me to hire several experienced postdocs.

Anonymous said...

The persistence of B but not A may be caused by the catch-all nature of B. I love my university and my college. In general I'm happy with the administration at that level and the resources provided, and I enjoy my service work at that level. I also love my colleagues around the world in both my sub-specialties and my general field. I love my profession. I even enjoy my service work for the profession.

However, I feel more lukewarm about my department. I've always felt undervalued by them. Familiarity breeds contempt (and it probably goes both ways). Ditto with C. I love my own work, or I wouldn't be doing it, but I have frustrations with my research group (don't we all).

Finally, I agree that "from whence" is awful!

ME said...

B and C, sometimes A
For me the dissatisfaction is larger from outside of A within the university (school and university administration).

I try to focus on what I can influence. Certainly there were times when I was unhappy with almost everything (pre-tenure) but now generally B and C are good.

Janus Professor said...

Having now just switched universities, I can say that A (enjoying your colleagues in your department) makes a world of difference. I actually *enjoy* coming into work now.

Anonymous said...

C > B > A. Some satisfaction from all of them, but not equally so.

Ace said...

A, B, C: ups and downs, but generally satisfied
D: the lifestyle. priceless.

Anonymous said...

grad school: B-C (hated my department)
post-doc: B-c (had no connection to A really, lower case c - project ended up being great, but had many down times)
faculty: A-b-C (lower case b - working on finding a niche)

and of course, the level of satisfaction here is the integral over time - any single day you might find I am dissatisfied with some aspect of them enough

queenrandom said...

Currently a grad student. C for sure; that's by far the #1 factor in my job satisfaction. A little of B but I'm not too visible yet. A for my very immediate environment (lab) but not so much at the institutional level.

MathTT said...

Grad student: A+B+C all awesome... best I could have hoped for.

Postdoc: B was still great but C waned because I was very isolated (compared to weekly meetings w/advisor and such). A was terrible... so unhappy with the department (and lack of a postdoc mentor which I though I had), the city, the bi-coastal marriage... all of it.

Now TT job: All are again great. C is the main cause of stress. I love my research but worry it's not enough (both quantity and quality concerns) to get tenure. But I have great grad students, great colleagues, and I live the best place on earth. And the my collaborators elsewhere are fantastic still.

Thinkerbell said...

Some years ago, when my C wasn't going anywhere, a terrific A kept me sane and motivated to keep trying. And it was B, maybe even more than C, that made me decide to stay in the field. So even though I have to like C, A (and B) are more important factors in keeping the joy of what I'm doing. If my environment sucked, no amount of awesome C could make up for the sucktitude.
I have to say tough, that I am quite surprised by the number of commenters that don't really appear happy with their C.

Anonymous said...

A+B+C. Has always been so for me; I've been in a faculty position in the same institute for the last 16 years. As a grad student at a different place, it was B and C but definitely not A.
MM

Miss Outlier said...

A-B-C. Life is good for me - for all the struggles I read about in the blogosphere, sometimes things do work out well. Here's hoping everybody can eventually make it there!

Anonymous said...

A-C, with a tiny bit of B. Some nice people in my area, but mostly it's exaggerators and media hounds.

GMP said...

A & C, and B to a lesser extent. I love my research, my group, and my local collaborators (in my department and other departments too). People outside of my institution, with whom I don't interact often, have less of an impact on my day-to-day happiness, although I do enjoy conferences.

Anonymous said...

i'm currently a grad student and have to say B is the only thing keeping me going right now. i'm really not keen on my dept or research group (i made a bad choice in picking the school for this leg of my journey :P) but knowing i'll get out and get to work with the awesome people in my research community keeps me going.