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.