Nurture Constructive Dissatisfaction

Monday, April 14 2014

Satisfaction is an emotional response to the conditions of our life. Challenging work, achievement, enhanced responsibility and personal growth are specific sources of satisfaction in our work.

In organizations, people who want to achieve more are happier and more productive when they are dissatisfied. Such constructive dissatisfaction motivates people to contribute even more. When people achieve greater success and receive recognition, they find the satisfaction they seek, setting the stage for new constructive dissatisfaction.

To nurture constructive dissatisfaction in your organization:

Ensure hygiene factors are satisfied

Frederick Herzberg suggested that hygiene factors of security, salary, benefits and working conditions can be a source of dissatisfaction. Failure to ensure the basics are met leaves individuals to focus on basic lifestyle maintenance, resulting in little room for pleasurable and fulfilling activities. Failure to achieve basic levels leads to plummeting satisfaction. People either give up or become obsessed with eliminating the dissatisfaction. Success leads only to relief, not satisfaction.

With hygiene factors satisfied, people are open to positive dissatisfaction, the desire to achieve even more than their current success.

Build team dissatisfaction

Bring teams together to articulate their collective contribution to society through the organization’s mission. Ask them to project forward from current successes to a vision of even greater contributions using more of their collective potential. This creates dissatisfaction with the status quo. Lead them to craft specific goals identifying the results they’ll achieve.

For each goal, identify a champion to build a success plan, enlist others, execute and report. Ensure the plan outlines benefits to the organization and individuals. This clear difference, between what is and what can be, will create constructive dissatisfaction.

Protect autonomy

Give champions ownership of their work, the freedom to make decisions and take actions. This will create an initial level of satisfaction.

Recognize and celebrate successes

Ensure every plan has milestones identifying achievements toward the ultimate goal.  Ask people to report them regularly. Ensure supervisors recognize each milestone in a clear, timely, sincere way.

When the ultimate goal is accomplished, publically acknowledge and celebrate it. Recognition from respected people is a powerful source of satisfaction. Reflect upon the strengths and learnings that contributed to the achievement. Show how individuals and the team can contribute even more, nurturing new constructive dissatisfaction.

This cycle of constructive dissatisfaction, powerful satisfaction and desire to do more can create unparalleled success for individuals, teams and your organization.