Do you love your job?
If so, you’re in the minority. According to the 2017 State of the American Workplace report from Gallup, 51% of workers are unhappy with their jobs, and are constantly on the lookout for something new.
Similar figures are being reported across the world, as employees look for more than work that just pays the bills or matches their skill set. They want it to be engaging. They want it to be meaningful.
But what defines meaning in the eyes of the individual?
The answer, it seems, may lie hidden on a cellular level.
In Genetic Influences on Core Self-Evaluations, Job Satisfaction, and Work Stress: A Behavioral Genetics Mediated Model, an international trio of university business teachers investigated the link between satisfaction in the workforce and genetics.
They took 297 pairs of Swedish twins, and had them perform Core Self-Evaluations (CSEs) to measure levels of work-related stress, general health, and overall job satisfaction.
Each score was then ranked against four variables:
Level of Education – Studies have shown a correlation between a subject’s level of education and their perception of their ability to perform in a job. For instance, a more highly educated subject may be less happy because they feel their talents are unappreciated, while a less educated one could suffer from higher stress levels due to such phenomenon as imposter syndrome.
Contact Frequency – How often the twins communicated could impact the results. Particularly close siblings, for instance, may be aware of issues their twin is dealing with in the workplace that are similar to their own, lending bias to their responses.
Conscientiousness – A daunting factor in any study of human psychology. Researchers asked subjects to rate such elements of their worklife as punctuality, passion, and focus in order to gauge their sense of understanding of where their unhappiness stems from.
Extraversion – Were some subjects less likely to voice their opinions or concerns? Did some prefer not to work as part of a team, while others insisted on leading every project? Measuring extraversion offered some insight into the subject’s status in the workforce and how that may affect the answers.
The results offered a fascinating new understanding of how we find value in our work, as well as the classic nature vs nurture debate.
35%, 32%, and 47% of the between-individual variance in job satisfaction, work stress, and health problems respectively, were found to be due to genetic effects. Very little derivation was found no matter whether the sets of twins were monozygotic, dizygotic, or even raised separately.
What does it mean? That far from being ‘blank slates’, each of us is born with genetic characteristics that define our relationship with work.
Of course, other elements like education and our support networks come into play, but as we look to a future in which work might no longer be a necessity for everyone, the research suggests that the reasons people will choose to work in that future are varied and complex.
Those who are genetically predisposed to finding meaning in their work will continue their search, no matter what form it takes. But we should not be quick to judge those who choose to direct their attention elsewhere. We would do well to allay our judgement.
This may not be the answer business leaders are looking for when they ask why 51% of their employees want to leave, but it certainly serves as a reminder that ignoring the needs of the individuals in our workforce is a grave mistake.