Values Count: Five Tips for Increasing Job Satisfaction via Self Reflection

Julie Lellis, PhD, Associate Dept Chair, School of Comms, Elon University

When Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank publicly praised President Trump’s pro-business stance, Golden State Warriors star/Under Armour spokesperson Steph Curry was quick to express concerns that Under Armour might adopt values similar to Trump’s—values that differed from Curry’s. Other prominent Under Armour spokespeople, ballet dancer Misty Copeland and actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, joined Curry. Eventually Plank walked back his comments to Curry’s satisfaction.

Research links low job satisfaction for PR pros with ethical conflict at work and distrust in leadership. Would you jump ship if you realized your company’s core values don’t align well with your own? Curry, in an interview with ESPN, said he would. While most of us lack Curry’s financial security, we can take solace in business trends indicating that values increasingly drive business decisions and serve the bottom line. For example, CSR programs are important to consumers who want to feel good about brands. And young professionals in particular expect to find a sense of purpose and happiness at work.

Here are a few ways to examine your professional identity and increase your satisfaction at work:


1. Know who you are. If you haven’t already, reflect on the personal and professional standards that are most important to you. Do your core values center around hard-working traits such as efficiency, accuracy and quality? Or are you more invested in expressing interpersonal qualities such as honesty, respect and leadership? What matters most to you?

PR pro Christina Martinson realized her job was a good fit because her employer’s priorities actually matched what she valued most. “As artists themselves, my bosses use empathy to guide their business practices...this has shown me that true success can only be achieved by treating people the way you yourself wish to be treated,” she says.


2. Embrace who you are.We often hear the value of “authentic leadership” mentioned as a way of increasing employee satisfaction and commitment. But professionals at any level can benefit from being authentic at work in their thoughts, words and actions. Are you living up to your professional identity? For example, if honesty is one of your most important values but you find yourself withholding important information or opinions in the workplace, you’re probably not embracing who you are. Most employers worth working for recognize and embrace individual differences.

“Finding talented job relatively easy, but finding prospective teammates who present themselves with authenticity is far more difficult,” says Greg Efthimiou, head of corporate communications, Bank of America Merchant Services. “I gravitate toward job candidates who are as confident in their character and personality - quirks and all - as in their skills and accomplishments.”


3. Show who you are. Review your online presence. Have you maximized the opportunity to present your most authentic self? Is content updated? Ask a friend to look at your profile and evaluate it. The time it takes to use all the features on LinkedIn can be well worth it. At the same time, make sure your personality also shines through.

“Companies are increasingly looking for what we call a cultural fit when seeking new employees. Are you likeable? Are you a true collaborator? What are you doing with your coveted free time? I try to let aspiring communications professionals know that showing a little of your personality along with professional accomplishments helps employers find the right match,” says Ashley Pinney, associate director of corporate and employer relations, School of Communications, Elon University.


4. Learn to say no. Practice these words: “Let me think about that and get back to you.” You might be one of many who work in an environment where it’s just the culture to say yes to everything, or perhaps you’re a people pleaser who lacks experience saying no. It’s always appropriate to pause, consider how well an opportunity aligns with your identity, and then make a more informed decision.

If honesty is a top priority, working on a project that feels like too much spin won’t be in line with your values or capitalize on your strengths. Situations like these lead to resentment, sloppy work and job dissatisfaction. Yes, you may be assigned tasks that you don’t have the freedom to walk away from, but pay closer attention when someone asks for your input or help. Ask: “Is this something that will feel authentic to me?” Also, practice saying “yes” to unforeseen opportunities that – perhaps for a short time – may feel like more work but you know will invigorate you.


5. Know your company. This might be the most significant way to find workplace satisfaction. Are your core values – whether they are efficiency, accuracy and quality OR honesty, respect and leadership – aligned with the values most coveted by your employer? When the company’s owner or your manager communicates with others about the business, do you feel a true connection to what he or she says? If you find yourself smiling and nodding, then you are working for an organization that feels authentic to you.

There are many reasons professionals struggle to embrace who they are at work. If you’re finding it hard to fit in, take a look at your professional identity, consider whether you’re expressing it well and then make sure your values align with your employer’s. You should feel excited and yet at ease when you’re able to be your best self.

NOTE: This content appeared originally in PR News Pro, March, 27, 2017. For subscription information, please visit:

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