Leadership Spotlight

Impacting Job Satisfaction Through Leadership

By Irene Barath
Stock image of two men shaking hands in an office.

“A miserable job is not the same as a bad one…. It is important to understand that being miserable has nothing to do with the actual work a job involves.”1

In his book The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick Lencioni identifies three leadership functions that significantly impact job satisfaction and staff engagement. The first relates to employees having the ability to see the value in their work. Engaged employees know how their efforts contribute to something more significant than the day-to-day function of their independent tasks. In policing this can look like communications center personnel understanding how their responsible and respectful handling of calls from the public contributes to public and officer safety.

For the traffic officer, this can translate to understanding how citing speeders can reduce vehicle and pedestrian collisions and, thereby, save lives, supporting the mission of the organization. As leader you can make the mission statement of your organization a living document, connect your staff to the mission, and help them see that what they do really contributes in a significant way to overall organizational success.

The second leadership function entails seeing the people who work for you. Everyone wants to feel valued beyond the scope of simply filling a position on a duty roster. When a platoon supervisor takes the time to greet officers at the beginning and end of a shift, they really are seeing their officers. People also feel appreciated when a supervisor has the insight to catch them doing something right and acknowledges those actions immediately. These informal conversations can provide the opportunity to obtain valuable insight from all frontline personnel and avoid leadership isolation. The leaders who get to know their staff members as people and not simply as a number build trust, which, in turn, leads to an increase in communication and a healthier working environment.

The third leadership function focuses on providing staff members with the skills and abilities to measure the success of their contribution to the organizational mission each day. Given the complex demands on the time of law enforcement leaders, it not always is possible to engage each staff member on even a weekly basis. When personnel understand the parameters within which they should operate, the level of professionalism expected of them, and what they have accountability for, they can use those measures to evaluate the success of their daily contributions.

For this to unfold, staff members must understand the mission of their organization and, more specifically, their assigned unit. This goes beyond having simple statistical accountability to providing staff members with the tools to go home at the end of each day and reflect on their accomplishments.

The three signs of a miserable job—irrelevance, invisibility, and immeasurement—all are reversible. As leaders you can have a significant impact on employee engagement and job satisfaction by looking for these signs in your organization and then making the necessary changes so your employees can transform an appreciated job into a loved one.

Ms. Irene Barath, an instructor with the Ontario, Canada, Police College in Aylmer currently assigned to the FBI’s Leadership Fellows program, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.


1 Patrick Lencioni, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007), 217.