Let’s do a little mental exercise this morning, shall we? How satisfied are you with your job when you’re at your job? I’m sorry, I should have told you to brace yourself. Or recruit a spotter. These might be heavy feelings. Now get a grip on them and translate those feelings into a single number on a 0-10 scale. I’ll wait. Now imagine that all of your coworkers do this same exercise and you come up with an average for your office. What would that number be? Now hold that thought.
Do People Like Their Jobs?
One quick Google search leads to some really dismal headlines. Most Americans Are Unhappy at Work. As Workers Expect Less, Job Satisfaction Rises. Job Satisfaction is Up, but Still Well Below One-Time Highs.
Maybe anecdotes aren’t your thing. Maybe you want some hard numbers. Let’s take a gander: According to the most recent Consumer Confidence Survey from the Conference Board, just over 50% of the workforce is satisfied with their jobs. And that’s being celebrated because that is the first time since 2005 that we have crossed that threshold. Yikes.
Perhaps the most depressing thing about these numbers is how people are choosing to interpret them. A few experts have said that work conditions are actually improving, as is the job market in general. But most people chalk this upward trend in satisfaction as the result of two things: lower expectations across the board and the fact that younger workers don’t know any better. First my avocado toast, now this. When isn’t being a millennial bad news bears?
Take these general statistics and juxtapose them with the FIRE community. I don’t care if it’s blogs, Twitter, or Reddit. There is a booming community of highly intelligent and incredibly motivated people who are pursuing early retirement. It makes for a sobering perspective.
My Reality Might Not Be Yours
Now let’s go back to our little brain calisthenics from earlier. Think back to your job satisfaction ranking. What did you say? What would you imagine your workplace average to be? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours in the comments.
I did this exact exercise. I ranked my job satisfaction as a 9. In past years, I would have said it was a 10, but no amount of passion for teaching can change the fact that I miss my baby dearly. Despite my feelings about work, I was not prepared for my coworkers’ results.
The average for our group of teachers was 8. An 8. I was stunned. I don’t teach math but I get numbers. Median and mode would have been interesting as well, but an average of 8 blew me away. What makes this even more remarkable is that this ranking took place on the heels of another school shooting.
I know I love my job. I love my job so much I really struggled to imagine my next life, even if I became rich. I also know that I love and respect my colleagues. So why was I so shocked? Because I constantly surround myself with people who are strategizing their exits, who are grinding fast and furious to get out, who are looking to hang up their careers in favor of full-time retirement or location independence. Because the prevailing sentiment in the personal finance community is to not mix work and passion. Because, in short, I have spent more time listening to what people don’t like about their careers than what they do.
Make no mistake. This has been highly motivating in terms of our finances. We have an e-fund for days (okay, for years). We funded my unpaid leave with money to spare. We are set to be mortgage free and possibly even financial independent by my fortieth birthday.
But now I can’t help but wonder if somewhere along the way I have lost sight of something else really significant, perhaps even more significant. I don’t actually know your job satisfaction number, nor do I know averages for any workplace other than my own. But my hunch is that an 8 is actually an anomaly. The fact that the vast majority of my peers don’t just tolerate or like their jobs, but find it deeply satisfying just doesn’t jive with a lot of the noise and numbers in the personal finance world and the world at large. That 8? Well, that is a number that I should spend more time savoring.
So Tell Me…Did I miss the memo? Do you think most people would rank their job satisfaction as an 8?