What people most value about their career isn’t necessarily the work

Friends in the office.
Friends in the office.
Image: Reuters/Dylan Martinez
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A recent study has found that there is one factor that matters more than any other when it comes to career satisfaction, and it’s not money or the nature of our work. It’s the people we work with.

British survey company Censuswide carried out a survey of 3,190 people aged 16 and over in the UK, publishing the results earlier this month. The survey was commissioned by Get into Teaching, a government-sponsored campaign to encourage people to re-train as teachers, and was thus focused on career-switching. But it also produced some interesting stats about what people really love, and hate, about their work.

When asked what made them value their current careers, 39% of respondents said that the people they worked with (pdf) were the top factor. The nature of the work followed with 36%, followed by a sense of achievement at 34% (respondents could choose more than one answer). Money was less important than all of those factors: Earning potential came in fourth place, with 30% of respondents valuing it highly.

Plenty of companies are trying to cultivate happiness at work in a number of ways, from shorter working hours to more support for families. Others still struggle with the fundamentals: Making people feel valued, and ensuring that personality clashes or different working styles don’t stymie individuals’ productivity. When Google conducted a years-long project into teamwork, it concluded that the answer was simple: Teams work better when people are nice to each other.

Interestingly, when people who dislike their current careers were asked why, only 13% said that the people they worked with were a real problem. This might suggest that unhappiness with colleagues is a factor that people are less likely to put up with than other issues. More people cited limited opportunities for progression, lack of earnings potential, lack of emotional rewards, lack of sense of achievement, or a belief that their work didn’t impact the wider world as reasons for unhappiness with their current situation.

Over half those surveyed, meanwhile, said that they would probably or definitely change their career if they felt they could. Increasingly, those who study the world of work are suggesting that a multi-faceted career is likely to become more common, as workers with longer life-spans become choosier about how they spend their work years. The Censuswide findings reinforce the suggestion that we’re unlikely to put up with unhappy work relationships along the way.