Taking benefit from a job well done

Last weekend (as I write this article), I watched Jenny Jones win Great Britain’s first winter Olympic medal on snow. Jenny has been a pioneer in snowboarding for a decade and had kept going so she could compete at the Olympics. Her efforts came to fruition with a bronze medal. Hearing her being interviewed and seeing her pictures in the news, it is easy to see what satisfaction and enjoyment she has gained from her achievement. This weekend (again as I write rather than as you read), Lizzie Yarnold won a gold medal in the skeleton. Again, the interviews and pictures convey the delight that is the reward for all the hard effort expended and the goal achieved.

Sport frequently provides this sense of satisfaction from a job well done, a skill mastered or a personal best achieved. It is something that we can all experience; it is not limited to elite athletes winning Olympic medals. I can remember many times when I have felt that emotion: a team cup final win; a cricket shot well executed; and even simply a training run completed when the temptation to give up was particularly strong. I have no doubt that all of you reading this can think of equally as many personal examples. Perhaps not in sport, but in some other activity ranging from gardening to baking. I even have to admit that I have experienced a sense of achievement when completing some DIY. When you step back and look at the room that has been wallpapered, it looks and feels good. Until, of course, someone says: “Is that bubble supposed to be there?”

Recently, a colleague described a particular piece of work, which he considered was the ideal project. The project pulled in all aspects of NDT work, theory and practical, and culminated in a published paper. The sense of achievement and pride in the work was evident from his description. This particular piece of work was completed many years ago. I have similar occasions that I can look back on and still think and feel “that was a good job well done”. Yet, there are not as many that stand out as you would think considering the length of time I have been working. Why is that? Can you think of such occasions in your career? Is it easy? How many can you remember? Have there been many recently? I am not referring to achievements alone. When you sit down to write a review of your working year for an appraisal, or even a CV, you can often think of inspections successfully completed, difficult signals resolved, obstacles overcome, projects delivered and contracts won or renewed. But how many of those gave you a real sense of achievement or resulted in a positive feeling from a job well done?

Why is there often this disconnect between a work achievement and a personal sense of satisfaction? I don’t think there is a simple answer. It could be that we don’t often feel that we have been tested or have used our skills to their full potential. It could be that we don’t think we have achieved anything special; we have performed an inspection – that is what we are expected to do! There have been a number of surveys which show that only a small percentage of employees feel truly engaged and satisfied at work. A Gallup poll from 2011/2012 showed that in the UK only 17% of employees felt engaged, 57% didn’t feel engaged and 26% felt actively disengaged. Towers and Watson reported that UK engagement survey figures decreased in 2013 from the previous year.

Engagement will obviously have an impact but maybe another key factor is the timing. Before we have finished writing up one inspection, we are preparing for the next. Or the feedback that allows us to judge how well we did the job comes sometime after we have moved on to the next job, so the completion of the work is not well defined. This means that we do not always stop and take stock of the work achievements we have realised personally and contributed to as a team.

Each of us can change this on a personal level and gain health benefits in the process. A recent study into stress found that if people take time at the end of the working day to positively reflect on what went well during the day, be it personal or work-related, then they have less stress and improved health in the evening. Give it a go and take more beneficial satisfaction from a job well done. I’m off to positively reflect on another NDT News deadline met, even though feedback will not come for another month, if at all. What is more, my team isn’t playing today so I will have no external negative factors to spoil the moment.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of AMEC or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

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