Career Research Paper: Are The Self Employed Happier In Their Work Than Employed Workers?
This career survey was conducted as part of my Diploma in Career Counseling studies to establish if there was any difference in worker satisfaction levels between self-employed and employed workers.
Career Survey Question 1: Overall Workers Satisfaction Level
This research concluded that workers satisfaction level overall was higher for self-employed workers than for employed people*.
- 25% of self-employed people rated themselves a 10/10 (where 10=Highly satisfied, 1=Very Unsatisfied)
- 0% of employed people rated themselves a 10/10
* For the purpose of this career survey, all people involved in work from home careers were included as self-employed.
Career Survey Question 2: Autonomy And Meaningful Contribution
Employed people rated higher in their meaningful contribution to work than I predicted.
86.3 % of employees and 95% of the self-employed selected ‘very true of my work’ for this question.
The biggest area of difference here were those that chose ‘not true of my work’.
9% of employees chose this option whereas 0% of self-employed did. The low self-rating given by self-employed on this career survey question was unexpected.
Other research has indicated that one of the most needed aspects of a fulfilling career for an individual is the need to be able to make a meaningful contribution and to utilize their inborn job skills.
Career Survey Question 3: Pride In Products Or Services The Organization Provides
Self-Employed people rated themselves as being more proud of the products or services their organization provides than did employed people – 85% compared to 63% answered ‘very true of my work’ to this question.
This wasn’t a surprising result of the career research paper.
One might expect the self-employed to have a greater sense of pride in their own business.
Often owners have started their businesses from nothing and a lot of planning, hard work, and financial risk had gone into founding the business.
The employed worker’s satisfaction in this area would be much harder to achieve because they are not usually as emotionally connected with their product or service.
Career Survey Question 4: An Opportunity To Be Creative And Implement New Ideas
24% more self-employed people chose ‘very true’ in relation to their being an opportunity to be creative and implement new ideas.
100% of self-employed rated this as either ‘very true’ or ‘somewhat true’.
This was not a surprising result on this career survey issues as a self-employed person will almost always have more opportunity to change things and implement their own ideas due to there being no one to prevent them from doing so.
When I started my first business at the age of 23, I had a full license to implement my own ideas to whatever degree I felt like at the time.
This was an immensely attractive aspect of running a business. Other self-employed people have said to me that this featured high on their self employed motives also.
However, there is a growing number of employers who are aware of their workers’ strong desire to use their creative abilities and have the authority to implement new ideas in their career.
In the same way that these aspects of work attracted business owners to become self-employed, wise employers are encouraging workers to articulate such desires in their own career development plan.
Career Survey Question 5: Stress
Stress in the workplace is a particularly pertinent and topical issue in today’s work climate.
It was interesting to see that of the eleven issues inquired about in this career research paper, both employees and the self-employed rated this issue the worst. This indicates that stress is a real problem for both groups.
‘Not true of my work’ was chosen by 36% of employed people and 25% of self-employed when asked to rate the statement ‘I have a relatively relaxed and stress-free environment’.
Additionally, fewer people answered ‘very true of my work’ than to any other question in the survey. Again, this was true for both groups – employed people answered this in only 18% of cases while self-employed was even less at 15%.
Career Survey Question 6: Remuneration
Considerably fewer self-employed people felt underpaid than did employed people.
Only 5% of self-employed answered ‘not true of my work’ to the statement ‘I am fairly remunerated for my work’ compared to 27% for employed people – a staggering 500% difference.
Although there was a large gap between those who were not happy with their remuneration levels in this career survey question, in contrast there was very little difference between the two groups who were happy with their pay levels.
30% of self-employed answered ‘very true’ to the above statement compared with 27% for employed people.
One of the reasons self-employed may not have scored higher is the fact that they generally work longer hours than employed people (Crowe 1988) and therefore feel they need to receive more to be fairly compensated.
Although Crowe did note that during her interviews, which often took place in the self-employed homes, she observed a good standard of living and most were living in middle and upper-class suburbs of Christchurch.
Career Survey Question 7: Good Relationships And Mutual Respect
More self-employed people felt they had better working relationships and mutual respect than their self-employed counterparts.
75% of self-employed rated the statement ‘Good working relationships and mutual respect are present in my job’ as ‘very true’.
This compared with 55% for employed people in the career survey.
Perhaps it could be said that self-employed people would automatically rate this higher because of their position of authority.
There are likely more cases of employees feeling disrespected by their bosses than bosses feeling disrespected by employees. Employers, because of their position have greater influence over how quality relationships and respect will feature in their culture.
If a CEO is particularly disrespectful to his/her staff the chances increase that this disrespect will prevail throughout the organization.
Career Survey Question 8: Challenge And Stimulation
Both employed and self-employed scored relatively high on this scale – 100% of self-employed answered very true or somewhat true regarding their job offering challenge and stimulation whereas 90% of employed people answered the same.
This was higher for employed people than I would have predicted considering other research suggesting low employed workers satisfaction in this area.
Only 9% of employed people said ‘not true’ to the statement ‘My job offers good challenge and stimulation’.
Possibly this unexpected low score could be attributed in part to the middle to the upper-class area in which the research was done for the employed and also the time the career survey was conducted.
The career research paper was carried out on a mid-Saturday morning outside a suburban shopping mall.
All employees who work Saturday’s would be automatically excluded from the survey.
These participants were clearly people who didn’t work Saturdays and included a good number of moms and/or dads with the kids.
We could possibly assume that those employees who don’t have to work Saturdays, are more likely to be white-collar type workers with better working conditions, better pay and a more stimulating environment, although this theory is untested.
What we do know from research is that intellectual challenge and stimulation is a common characteristic among happy workers (Henderson 2000 p.
Here are the words of a very contented hairdresser who found here Dream Career as stated to Henderson.
“I just got paid handsomely for an hour and a half of work.
If you want to call it work.
It was fun!
And here I am holding a big pile of dollar bills going “Gee this isn’t so bad”. I mean, doing hair is about my second favorite thing in the world at this point and I’m getting paid for it.”
When people are in their niche area of work, being stimulated in the areas of their motivated abilities, they often don’t see their work as work.
One of the issues in today’s workforce is that we have a high percentage of workers who are working in jobs that are mismatched to their natural abilities.
This causes frustration and lack of enjoyment at work.
And this unhappiness is often carried over into the family and other non-work areas.
I have developed the inborn job skills assessment, a tool to help uncover persons inborn abilities.
This is effective regardless of background, age or ‘success’ in life to date.
Career Survey Question 9: Variety and Diversity
65% of self-employed people chose ‘very true’ in answer to the statement ‘my job offers variety and diversity’.
This was 20% more than employed people.
This is approximately the outcome I would have predicted given that a self-employed person is more likely to be in a position of being able to delegate tasks which they find repetitive or not aligned to their preferred skills.
In most instances, a self-employed person will be doing a greater variety of tasks that are associated with running a small business because of an owners need to be ‘a jack of all trades’ in the different areas of the business.
But an employee is more likely to be under the division of labor influences thereby reducing workplace diversity and accounting for this lower employed workers satisfaction.
However, when we take a closer look at the figures we see that if we add together both ‘very true’ and ‘somewhat true’ for both groups, the gap is considerably narrowed – 90% for self-employed against 86% for employed.
The extremes, which existed with other results in the research, were not so pronounced on this one.
Nevertheless, the difference is still significantly based only on ‘very true’ scores. The importance of variety and diversity is something that some organizations are aware of and are doing something about.
For example, Delta Airlines (Peters 1991) adopt a philosophy that encourages variety and diversity.
The company insists that all management be interchangeable so that they can step into any job in the company.
This results in top managers becoming baggage handlers at Christmas.
Career Survey Question 10: Ability To Learn And Acquire New Skills
The results of this component of the questionnaire were a bit surprising to me.
This was the one item on the questionnaire where the employed worker’s satisfaction was higher than self-employed people.
The biggest surprise was not so much how well-employed people rated this but how poorly self-employed rated.
Only 45% of self-employed chose ‘very true of my work’ compared to 55% for employed people.
Although it was interesting to note that 0% of self-employed chose ‘not true’ compared to 4% for employed people.
This could be seen as being in conflict with the results of ‘variety and diversity’.
Can a job offer good variety and diversity but not offer the provision to acquire new skills.
Variety and diversity would normally be associated with doing new things and therefore adding to an individual’s job skills list.
It is possible however to have good variety and diversity purely based on a wide selection of skills being used without necessarily learning new ones.
This is something further research could address.
Career Survey Question 11: Flexible Work Hours
Ninety percent of self-employed answered ‘somewhat true’ or ‘very true’ to the statement ‘my work hours are flexible’.
Whereas only 59% of employed people felt the same way.
Although self-employed rated their working hours as flexible, this doesn’t mean they work less.
Crowe (1988) found that not only do self-employed people work longer hours but also they also have fewer holidays and often have family members working for free in their business.
These findings of more flexible working hours for self-employed was to be expected.
Because they are in control and have no one to answer to they can arrange their days how they wish.
If they want to take Friday off to go away for a long weekend, or if they want to meet family or friend for a 2-hour lunch, they can usually do it with ease.
Not so the employee who must seek and gain permission and is always aware of asking for too many ‘favors’ from their boss and the expectation of their peers of equally sharing the workload.
there is a feeling of being locked into a rigid framework of working hours.
This has become a growing issue in recent years with many more families having two parents working and a growing need to achieve a good balance between work and other areas of their life.
This has resulted in more people seeking help with life and career coaching to address this new issue.
Career Survey Questionnaire Summary Workers Satisfaction: What Can We Learn
The evidence from this small research project overwhelmingly puts self-employed people in a better light as far as workers satisfaction is concerned.
In eleven out of the twelve issues surveyed self-employed people beat their employed counterparts.
25% of self-employed people gave themselves a 10/10 for overall workers satisfaction compared to 0% for employed people.
Although it is worth noting that the survey was asking about work only issues.
Some independent research discussed earlier showed that self-employed may be behind in lifestyle.
They work longer hours, have fewer holidays and are very close to employed people on stress levels.
Stress was the surprising negative from both the employed and self-employed.
No other issue was rated so poorly by both groups.
So what can be learned from these workers satisfaction findings?
Firstly, employed people statistically could become happier and more fulfilled if they became self-employed.
This is assuming that the eleven issues surveyed are representative of the key areas that cause a person to enjoy their work.
Secondly, and more importantly, many of the issues that allow self-employed people to be happier in their work, could easily be incorporated into their environment to increase the worker’s satisfaction.
This is evidenced by a minority of organizations who do this already with outstanding results on most of the business and employee indicators.
At the heart of these organizations is a heart- a commitment by management to care about and honor people, to be genuinely interested in their worker’s satisfaction.
Previously in this paper, I have referred to the link between family and the organization.
It is sometimes easy to forget that it is people, not corporations who make decisions on issues that will affect employee’s happiness at work.
Even if we are referring to the worlds largest corporation it is still a person or persons who will decide to pay their workers well or allow flexibility in their employees working hours, or create a culture where employees feel valued and respected.
A corporation is never anything more than a group of individuals.
Where does an individual, who is the leader of an organization, learn these sought after personal characteristics?
Sir Stephen Tindall founder of The Warehouse (Jackson and Parry, 2001, p.194) believes it is in the family.
The personal attributes he tries to install into his organization that create a positive, people-first culture, was learned from his parents and the exposure he had to his great grandfather’s business.
Tom Peters says that the way the excellent companies treat their people can be reduced to the succinct bible scripture ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’.
These core personal character traits involving empathy, ethics, and morality must inevitably be the domain of the family.
Ultimately if we want to produce a world of excellent organizations that foster a culture where workers will be happier, we must first produce a world of excellent individuals to lead these organizations.
These individuals are a family member first where they learn these core human character traits, then they go on to become a manager or CEO of a corporation.
Excellent individuals will invariably be the product of excellent families.
The happiness and fulfillment levels of employees can be raised closer to that of self-employed if the quality of those that lead organizations can be raised.
Learn more about the inborn job skills assessment using the best-known principles of inborn skills identification that I know of.