A job shouldn’t be a battle between employer and employee

It’s pitched as you vs them

Sticking it to “the man”.

Getting one over on your evil employer.

Leaving the corporate culture behind, never to set foot in an office again.

I don’t think that way.

Seeing employees and employers as opponents is a pretty old fashioned way of looking at things. Granted, it’s still very prevalent, but it’s antiquated.

In the days of factories, shift work and replaceable employees, it made sense. Squeezing a little more out of an employee by any means was good for business. So that’s exactly what happened.

But in the modern economy that we work in, it’s not like that. An employer might be able to squeeze some more out of you, but when you start to resent them, and see yourself of on opposite sides of a game (or worse a battle) then you both lose.

You both loose because happy employees deliver more value than unhappy ones. Happy you should mean happy employer. It’s in a company’s economic interest to make their employees happy. Honestly.

Big companies do recognise this, at least superficially. Most “take employee satisfaction seriously”. No doubt they offer lots of benefits, measure employee satisfaction and net promoter scores an such. But honestly – it doesn’t work.

What really makes a difference is pretty simple:

  • Giving employees purpose and agency in their work.
  • Matching their skills to things that need doing.
  • Having them work on things that interest and excite them.

So, if this is true, why are employee satisfaction surveys more prevalent than happy employees? Why is it broken?

Here are three reasons:

Firstly, it’s accepted at a theoretical level that happy employers deliver more, and this is often the policy at board level. But how many managers actually believe this to be true, I’m not so sure. So the policies support the theory, but the culture drives different behaviours.

Secondly, it’s a long term game. In the long run, a happy, engaged employee will deliver more. But in the short term, someone who’s overloaded and driven hard to do more regardless of how they feel, will usually do better. If the culture of the company judges managers on their short term results (which most do) then it encourages short term maximisation of output – and happiness loses out.

Thirdly, the fundamental problem is that being unhappy at work is endemic. Many of the managers charged with cultivating happy employees are not happy themselves. This drives a belief that work is something to be endured and not enjoyed – and it runs deep. Why should my staff be happy if I’m not? Few would admit to this, but their actions tell a different story.

That’s a pretty bleak picture. So it might not be as simple as showing this post to your boss, sitting down and having a conversation about how your job could change.

But, if you know that underneath your desire to be happy in what you do there’s a better outcome for your boss and your employer you can bring a whole new angle to any debate about your job. You can switch perspective from opponent to partner.

Admitting that you’re not happy and actually doing something about it is good for you and your employer. Whether you choose to rethink what’s happening in your job as it is, or to look for something different, as you become happier, things get better for both of you.

If you can change your job and you’re happier and more productive win for both of you.

If you leave because you can’t work things out, you can find something that works for you, and there’s an opportunity to fill your role with someone who it’s more suited to.

Either way, you both win.

Are you ready to make the first move?


  1. Marie says

    Really great article, thank you. food for thought on staying or going, happy me is a more productive me for sure.