We all want to feel that we’re achieving things at work in exchange for the effort we put in. A sense of accomplishment doesn’t only come from big achievements – even finishing small tasks can make us feel happier.
Achieving things in our work is obviously good for the organizations we work for, but it’s good for us too. Across 23,000 employees in eight countries, we found a sense of accomplishment was the fourth strongest predictor of happiness at work.
Sense of accomplishment relates to competence – one of three universal psychological needs found in Self Determination Theory. Sense of competence is the feeling that we have an impact on the world – both inside and out of the work place. It’s why the practice of setting and achieving goals feels so rewarding. In the workplace, accomplishment is about being able to put our skills into action, and feel that we are good at what we do. Do we feel like we’re leaving work with a job well done? Are we feeling that our work and our achievements are heading in the right direction?
We all have weeks when we feel we’re adding value, and those when we don’t. A sense of accomplishment is very fulfilling; when it’s missing, we feel very frustrated. The way we apply ourselves at work is partly an individual responsibility, but it’s also affected by our relationship to our work – Is the job a good fit with our skills? Can we see how it is part of something bigger we want to contribute to? Internal processes, systems and relationships that ease the process of doing good work also help. Our international research highlighted that one of the key determinants of sense of accomplishment is how much clarity employees have about their job. Presumably role clarity helps employees get visibility on what they are accomplishing. When responsibilities are limitless or too fragmented, it’s harder to see the impact we’re having.
“In a fast paced environment it is way too easy to rush onto the next challenge without stopping to register all the things we’ve achieved together. A real sense of accomplishment is reinforced by social recognition – so giving a shout out about who has achieved what is a great way for everyone to feel better at work.” Nic Marks, Friday
To measure sense of accomplishment, we ask:
Do you feel a sense of accomplishment from your work?
The key nuance in this question is the phrase ‘from your work’ – this emphasis is on the content of our work, and our relationship to it.
: Robert Half (2017) It’s time we all work happy. The secrets of the happiest companies and employees. Robert Half Retrieved from https://www.roberthalf.co.uk/its-time-we-all-work-happy : Deci, E.L., Connell, J.P. and Ryan, R.M. (1989) Self-Determination in a Work Organization. Journal of Applied Psychology 74(4): 580-590 : Warr, P. (2007) Work, Happiness, and Unhappiness. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates : Friday’s research (2017)