Job Satisfaction Triangle


In my first marketing job, I learned about the Triple Constraint Triangle as it pertains to print production. The basic premise is that you can’t have them all. To have a brochure printed cheaply and quickly, it will be poor quality. To have a high-quality brochure printed quickly, it will be expensive. Finally, to have a high-quality brochure printed at a low cost, it will take a long time to ship. It’s a pretty straightforward concept with accurate real-life application.

Similarly, I believe that a similar model exists for job satisfaction. From my own experience and that of my friends and colleagues, I believe that 2 of the 3 attributes must be positive, otherwise job satisfaction goes way down, which results in lower engagement, productivity, and work quality.


One of my previous jobs initially scored 3/3 on the Job Satisfaction Triangle (JST):

  • My colleagues were amazing. We had a strong team culture that centred around “having each other’s back.” If someone needed help, they could easily pull in a couple of team members, either to brainstorm or put together 200 conference bags.
  • My boss regularly showed appreciation for my work and recognized the value that I brought to the team.
  • My work challenged and inspired me. I learned new things every day and had excellent relationships with clients. I also felt that my work doing provided value for our clients.

Somewhere down the line, my boss stopped being so warm and fuzzy. In fact, he became closed off and unsupportive. He stopped listening to and valuing my feedback. That was really tough to deal with, and there were days that ended in tears, but my awesome colleagues and fulfilling work continued to motivate me.

Somewhere else down the line, my work became more routine and administrative. It felt like I was solving the same problem, in different skins, over and over again. I was challenged by the volume of work, but not by the work itself.

With two of the three attributes in the JST in disarray, I was an unhappy mess. I became uninspired and less productive. I dreaded waking up to go to work. Most importantly, I decided my happiness wasn’t worth my paycheque. I started looking for jobs and gave my notice within 3 months.

Lesson Learned

If you are a manager, I urge you to take a step back and look at your direct reports’ jobs with the JST model in mind.

  • Do you provide feedback and support? Are you able to engage and encourage your staff?
  • Is the team culture positive and do members work effectively with each other?
  • Are their jobs challenge and inspire them to do great work?

If you answered (honestly) to “no” to more than one of these questions, then you need to be prepared to start hiring because chances are you’re going to lose some of your employees soon. It’s important that you, as a manager, are constantly aware of how well you’re doing in these 3 areas because they are strong indicators of job satisfaction, which affect engagement, productivity, and work quality. It is also worth mentioning that the JST model applies to most employees, but is especially true for high-performers, who are the most important resources to retain.


The ROI of Pumpkin Carving

Walk into any workplace and ask, “What’s the ROI on carving pumpkins?” and you’ll probably hear choruses of, “It’s a waste of time!” and “We don’t have time for that!”. I don’t know when this became a trend in the business world (at least in corporate environments), but for some reason “having fun” at work is frowned upon.

As previously mentioned, I started a new job six weeks ago. It has been an exciting journey so far, filled with challenging learning opportunities. One of the neat things about work is that we have a Social Club. Made up of staff volunteers, this intrepid group hosts quarterly birthday celebrations, holiday events, employee milestones, and other fun outings. To take part, all you need to do is pay the club dues – $10.00 per month automatically deducted from your paycheque. As a testament to the club’s success, nearly everyone in the organization is a member.

The Social Club hosts an annual pumpkin carving contest, as part of their Hallowe’en festivities. All members are randomly assigned to groups, and given a pumpkin and 4 days to carve. Through this activity, I came to discover the ROI of pumpkin carving.


I really feel that most workplaces and, indeed, most jobs don’t allow us to tap into and leverage our creativity. And before you say, “But I’m not creative!” – I must insist that creativity is not merely limited to the arts. I define it as a way of thinking beyond traditional boundaries and coming up with wildly different answers to the same question.

The pumpkin carving contest allowed us to exercise our creative bones in a healthy and productive way, and I’m willing to bet that many of us took that creative mindset back to our desks.


As a newbie to the organization, I really appreciated the opportunity to meet and connect with my colleagues. It was also neat to experience teamwork in a non-professional context because it revealed people’s strengths and passions beyond their job titles. One inspiringly crafty woman brought several ideas to the table – one of which we all unanimously decide on. Everyone pitched in to pick up and bring decorations, carve and clean the pumpkin, and painstakingly hot glue hundreds of candy corn pieces to our pumpkin.

It was remarkable to witness such a beautiful display of teamwork in action. We each brought our individual abilities to the table, and effectively played the role of leader or teammate as needed.

Positive Culture

To be honest, when the Social Club first announced the pumping carving event, I was skeptical – which means I had subconsciously bought into the idea that work ≠ fun. I didn’t think people would take it seriously, so I was surprisingly delighted to see the wonderful results.

How else would you describe a company culture that brings its entire organization together for Halloween fun other than “positive”? We had VPs and senior managers who enthusiastically participated. Although I’m sure some of us were dealing with difficult clients, complex projects, and looming deadlines, there was a sense of lightheartedness and fun in the air. And yes, these things are, paradoxically, often what’s most needed during stressful times!

Many of us spend at least 40 hours a day (and more likely closer to 50 or 60) at work. That’s a heck of a lot of time! Wouldn’t you rather spend that time with a company that genuinely fosters a positive culture?