Of the blogs I read regularly, Steve Denning on Forbes.com consistently writes the most thoughtful ones about management. Recently he posted about the ten happiest and the ten most hated jobs in America. I think there are some lessons in the lists for managing media organizations and media salespeople.
- Clergy: The least worldly are reported to be the happiest of all.
- Firefighters: Eighty percent of firefighters are “very satisfied” with their jobs, which involve helping people.
- Physical therapists: Social interaction and helping people apparently make this job one of the happiest.
- Authors: For most authors, the pay is ridiculously low or non-existent, but the autonomy of writing down the contents of your own mind apparently leads to happiness.
- Special education teachers: If you don’t care about money, a job as special education teacher might be a happy profession. The annual salary averages just under $50,000.
- Teachers:Teachers in general report being happy with their jobs, despite the current issues with education funding and classroom conditions. The profession continues to attract young idealists, although fifty percent of new teachers are gone within five years.
- Artists: Sculptors and painters report high job satisfaction, despite the great difficulty in making a living from it.
- Psychologists: Psychologists may or may not be able to solve other people’s problems, but it seems that they have managed to solve their own.
- Financial services sales agents:Sixty-five percent of financial services sales agents are reported to be happy with their jobs. That could be because some of them are clearing more than $90,000 dollars a year on average for a 40-hour work week in a comfortable office environment.
- Operating engineers: Playing with giant toys like bulldozers, front-end loaders, backhoes, scrapers, motor graders, shovels, derricks, large pumps, and air compressors can be fun. With more jobs for operating engineers than qualified applicants, operating engineers report being happy.
No big surprises here. People who help other people, find intrinsic motivation in their work, and have autonomy seem to be happy. There is much more focus on the meaning of their work and of their lives rather than on money.
- Director of Information Technology: Information technology directors hold almost as much sway over the fate of some companies as a chief executive, but they reported the highest level of dissatisfaction with their jobs. Why? “Nepotism, cronyism, disrespect for workers.”
- Director of Sales and Marketing: A director of sales and marketing plans reported the second-highest level of job dissatisfaction, “a lack of direction from upper management and an absence of room for growth.”
- Product Manager: Product managers complained of restricted career growth, and boring clerical work even at this level.
- Senior Web Developer: Senior web developers reported a high degree of unhappiness in their jobs, because employers are unable to communicate coherently, and lack an understanding of the technology.
- Technical Specialist: A technical specialist reported that for all their expertise, they were treated with a palpable disrespect. Their input was not taken seriously by senior management.
- Electronics Technician: Electronics technicians complain of having too little control, work schedule, lack of accomplishment, no real opportunity for growth, no motivation to work hard, no say in how things are done, and mutual hostility among peers.
- Law Clerk: Clerkships are among the most highly sought-after positions in the legal profession and the job beefs up a resume. Yet law clerks still report high levels of dissatisfaction. The hours are long and grueling, and the clerk is subject to the whims of sometimes mercurial personalities.
- Technical Support Analyst: Technical support analysts help people with their computer issues. This typically amounts to calmly communicating technical advice to panicked individuals, often over the phone, and then going on site only to find the client simply hadn’t turned the printer on. They may be required to travel at a moment’s notice, sometimes on holidays or weekends.
- CNC Machinist: CNC machinists operate computer numerical control machines. For the uninitiated, this is a machine that operates a lathe or a mill. Now that the CNC operator has had most of the physical hazards of manufacturing replaced by a machine, there’s not a lot to do but push buttons and maintenance. Since it’s a specialized skill, the job offers no room for advancement.
- Marketing Manager: Marketing managers often cited a lack of direction as the primary reason for job dissatisfaction.
Some surprises here. If people don’t feel like they are helping others, don’t have room for growth, or have a job focused on extrinsic rewards (money and profits), it appears that they hate their jobs.
But why do sales and marketing directors and product managers say there is no room for growth, when the odds are the CEOs of a majority of companies come out of these jobs. There must be something else going on. I think that in many of the hated jobs there is focus on money and profits and not on meaning, not on helping others.
So what can media companies and media sales management do to make the people who work in their organizations happier (assuming they care about their people being happy)?
One adjustment media managers can make is to emphasize meaning instead of money, emphasize helping and serving others instead of maximizing revenue, increasing shareholder value, or garnering ratings. If salespeople were told their number-one goal is to delight their customers by getting results for them (results as their customers define them) and their number-two goal is to educate customers and give them insights on how they can grow and be more successful, then salespeople more than likely would be happier, to say “I helped someone today.”
And instead of compensating media salespeople wholly or partially on commission, why not pay them based on delighting customers by giving them superb service as measured by customer satisfaction surveys?
Emphasizing the purpose and meaning of media sales jobs, providing an intrinsically motivating work environment, and encouraging salespeople to delight customers might well make salespeople happier than paying them more money, and, by the way, it might well increase profits by increasing revenues and reducing expenses. Might be worth a try, especially in attracting younger people who are often looking for work that gives them a sense of meaning.
Charlie Warner teaches sales, media ethics, and innovation in the graduate Media Management Program at The New School and is author of Media Selling, 4th Edition. From 1998-2002 he was Vice President of AOL's Interactive Marketing division. Before joining AOL, he was the Goldenson Endowed Professor at the Missouri Journalism School and a highly sought-after media sales and management consultant and trainer. Charlie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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