From time to time, whether by family, friends, or colleagues, I’ve been asked to offer input related to job opportunities. Having given it a bit of thought, here’s a framework that I’ve come up with that can be used to evaluate competing job opportunities or your current role. It’s less of a prescription for what to do and more a description based on what seems to have been useful to many others across time, place, and career. It’s built around factors we find meaningful in our work lives. RAMP – Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose are four drivers that seem to have universal appeal. The more of these we can incorporate into our careers, the more satisfied we will be in our role. We should be consciously looking for roles where we can maximize our ability to achieve in some or all of these areas. Moreover, we can look for ways to increase our experience in some or all of these areas in our current role to find ways to improve our workplace satisfaction. Three of these are inherent to Self-Determination Theory developed through the work of Psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. Deci and Ryan proposed that self-motivation is driven largely by three intrinsic drivers: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The more of autonomy, competence, and relatedness we have, the more intrinsically or self-motivated we will be. This is a desirable and satisfying state.
Relatedness is about developing a sense of belonging. We want to be part of a tribe. We want to fit in, be welcomed, and appreciated. The greater our relatedness, the greater our satisfaction.
Autonomy relates to how much of your workday is under your control. There are four areas of autonomy: Task, Technique, Timing, and Team. Collectively, these are known as the 4 T’s of Autonomy. Task is about what we do. Technique is about how we do the assigned tasks. Timing is about when the work needs to be done, and team is about with whom we do our work. The more influence we have over decisions in each of these areas, the more autonomy we have. Work satisfaction is highly related to the amount of autonomy we feel we have.
Mastery is about finding satisfaction in improving our skills in an area. It feels good to be good. Confidence follows competence. We can become lost in the fascination of never ending improvement. In your role are there aspects that involve developing skills? Are you both encouraged and provided assistance in improving at your function? The larger our ability to develop and improve our competence, the greater our workplace satisfaction becomes.
Purpose involves connecting your efforts to a meaningful outcome. A sense of purpose follows a sense that our actions are contributing to a higher good. It helps us feel that our actions matter and are making a difference in a meaningful way. The greater our purpose, the higher our workplace satisfaction. We can lean on wisdom from past US President Richard Nixon to capture the importance of purpose. Nixon noted, “The unhappiest people of the world are those in the international watering places like the South Coast of France, and Newport, and Palm Springs, and Palm Beach. going to parties every night. Playing golf every afternoon. drinking too much. Talking too much. Thinking too little. Retired. No purpose. … Because what makes life mean something is purpose. A goal. The battle. The struggle—even if you don’t win it.”
One more variable could be included in your assessment of role and that’s Responsibility. Where the responsibility borne is balanced between being too little and too much, we feel that our contributions matter and become engaged. The right level of responsibility can be a motivator contributing to our workplace satisfaction. Too little responsibility and we become disengaged believing that what we’re doing is not important. Too much and we burnout or breakdown succumbing to pressure. To properly motivate the responsibility in our role should be a Goldilocks level or just right, neither too hot nor too cold.
Consider evaluating your current role or a prospective one using the below framework:
Review each statement and assign it a rating of 1-5 where 1 is low or strongly disagree and 5 is high or strongly agree. There are four statements for each career component. You can then sum your scores for each component and come up with a total role score.
|I enjoy the people with whom I work.||5|
|I feel like I belong in this group.||5|
|My colleagues feel like teammates.||5|
|I have my colleagues’ backs and they have mine.||5|
|I have control over what I do.||5|
|I have control over how I do the things for which I’m responsible.||5|
|I have control over when I perform my tasks.||5|
|I get to choose with whom I work.||5|
|I have the opportunity to get better at the work that I do.||5|
|I still have a lot to learn about my role, organization, and industry.||5|
|My employer values learning and encourages ongoing education.||5|
|I can see a career development plan and pathway within my organization and am confident that management wants to see me succeed.||5|
|I see how my role contributes to the bigger picture.||5|
|It is clear to me that my efforts help others.||5|
|I believe that the success of my employer matters. What we’re doing makes a difference in the lives of others.||5|
|Through my job I am able to both support and provide opportunities for my family.||5|
|I am clear about and understand what my responsibility is.||5|
|I have been suitable trained for my responsibilities and have been provided proper resources to manage.||5|
|I am confident in my capability to manage my responsibilities.||5|
|I am in the sweet-spot of responsibility. I am not disengaged by having too little nor overwhelmed by having too much.||5|
|Comments: 20/20 for each category or 100 total represents a perfect score that defines a dream job. The higher your score, the more satisfactory and fulfilling your work experience is likely to be.|
The above grid assumes each of the five RAMP-r factors are valued equally. You could take your analysis further and weight each of these factors for you personally. Perhaps, relatedness trumps all the others and is the only one worthy for consideration for you? Alternately, maybe mastery is more of a mover for you? This would allow you to customize the analysis for your personal preferences. You could eliminate one or more factors all together and limit your evaluation to the remaining three, for example.
Maybe, you’ll need to balance the RAMP-r framework not according to your wishes but to the reality of your circumstances or job? An airline pilot, for example, shouldn’t reasonably expect to have full marks on autonomy related to the timing, task, or technique. Neither should a junior employee just starting in the work force realistically seek autonomy over their workday. Someone working the graveyard shift as a security guard in an unstaffed office building may be disappointed if relatedness is their primary driver. The framework can be used to rate certain professions. Consider cross-referencing an assessment of a given job against what’s important to you. The more overlap, the more likely you are to be satisfied, fulfilled, and functional in a given role.
You’ll note that the above consideration does not consider compensation, other benefits, or status like titles. As worthwhile and important as some of these may be, they don’t afford sustainable job satisfaction as do the factors in our RAMP-r framework. Compensation, benefits, and title are external motivators which may drive our performance periodically. However, once a basic level is achieved, their value to move us becomes less. We’re more likely to get out of bed with a bounce in our step morning after morning eager to contribute in the workplace where we are satisfying more RAMP-r than where we have received a 5% cost of living allowance compensation increase.
Undertaking this type of review can help you assess competing job opportunities. Additionally, having this framework available during a job interview can support asking questions to learn more about the role for which you’re being considered. It can then help you weigh your current position against other options. Moreover, it can guide you to see where opportunities for improving work satisfaction in your current role may lie. You could do this exercise on your own as a form of personal performance review. Alternately, you could bring this framework with you during a performance review and work through it with your manager highlighting both the positives and areas for improvement from your perspective. What is it about your current role that is working well and providing satisfaction? What areas are causing some disappointment and represent areas for improvement? With this self-knowledge you can seek to engage your management to help you improve your score and further your contributions to your existing organization.
I hope the above is helpful for you and that you can use it to objectively assess your current workplace satisfaction as well as use it to build a plan to find further fulfillment in the workplace.