The Thirtysomething Blues

If you’re looking to feel satisfied with your job, then you better avoid being in your 30s.

That, anyway, is what one might conclude based on recent survey by the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, which found job satisfaction is highest among workers under 30 and over 50. Meanwhile, those “least jazzed about their daily grind,” according to The Wall Street Journal, are “workers between the ages of 30 and 39.”

The Journal suggests part of the reason for the problem is that Baby Boomers, instead of retiring, are staying put. In turn, senior positions aren’t opening up fast enough for the thirtysomethings.

Peter Drucker considered job satisfaction to be important as an idea, but not as a measure of company health. In The Practice of ManagementDrucker maintained that “employee satisfaction” was “an almost meaningless concept,” because “nobody knows which of the things that we are trying to measure in terms of satisfaction have any impact on behavior and performance.”

A worker might be satisfied with mediocrity, after all, and that’s not the right sort of satisfaction. Instead, companies that want to retain employees should focus on giving employees a sense of responsibility, a desire to perform. “Responsibility—not satisfaction—is the only thing that will serve,” Drucker explained. [EXPAND More]

Yet Drucker also understood that it isn’t so easy to offer job promotions to foster that sense of responsibility, given all the Baby Boomers standing in the way. “For the near term the pipelines are full,” Drucker noted in The Frontiers of Management. “How much promotional opportunity is there, for instance, for the eager and brilliant vice-president of 31 at a large commercial bank when the senior VP to whom he or she reports is 38, the executive VP 46, and the president 50?”

For Drucker the solution lay in making jobs “bigger, more challenging, more demanding, more autonomous, while increasingly using lateral transfers to different assignments, rather than promotions, as a reward for outstanding performance.”

What do you think: What’s the best way to keep good employees motivated when the ladder up is blocked?[/EXPAND]