September 22, 2011

I Can’t Get No Job Satisfaction

I can't get no satisfaction

Rock and Roll: The ultimate in job satisfaction?

Job satisfaction is like a complex mathematical equation that needs to be balanced. There are many factors that contribute to the mix, both good and bad. Hopefully the good things about a job will outweigh the bad. But what are the good things that contribute to the elusive but crucial job satisfaction?

Daniel Pink, argues that motivation is key to job satisfaction. If you provide the right motivations to people in an organisation, not always large financial ones [1], then their job satisfaction is more likely. According to Pink, the three key motivations are:

  1. Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed.
  2. Mastery: The urge to get better at doing things and be recognised for it
  3. Purpose: The sense that your work makes a difference and maybe even makes the world a better place somehow.

Pink explains how these factors work in another one of those beautifully animated RSA videos below:

So if like Mick and Keith, you can’t get no (job) satisfaction [2], it’s probably worth aiming for more autonomy, mastery and purpose in your work.


  1. Ariely, D., Gneezy, U., Loewenstein, G., & Mazar, N. (2009). Large Stakes and Big Mistakes Review of Economic Studies, 76 (2), 451-469 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-937X.2009.00534.x
  2. Jagger, M. & Richards, K. (1965) (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction Decca Records


  1. Nice post and video. One big motivation is that your work matters to somebody. Concerning science, this is not obvious. On the one hand, people above are not good at showing how their scientists contribute to the development of the group. On the other hand, your research can matter to society, but your contribution will be small in the whole and it will be noticeable in the long term, so staying motivated will rely on your capacity to repeat to yourself “what I am doing is important”.

    Comment by Julio E. Peironcely (@peyron) — September 22, 2011 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

    • Hi Julio, thanks for your comments. I’ve come across many scientists who think their work is important. Some of them are undoubtedly right, others are just delusional. It seems that the difficulty is telling the difference?

      Comment by Duncan — September 22, 2011 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

  2. It’s enlightening to note the similarities between this list and Uri Alon’s suggestions for how to build a motivated research group which focus on “competence, autonomy, and social connectedness”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20122395

    Comment by cmbergman — September 25, 2011 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

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