When it comes to job satisfaction, I have always viewed schools as one of the most people-intensive environments known to man. Keeping all the stakeholders, including boards, staff, students, and parents happy is a daunting task at best. What complicates matters is the fact that the interests of all the above frequently clash. Many administrators must often play the role of King Solomon, forced to choose between one interest or the other, trying to somehow walk a fine line that will keep everyone placated and no one terribly upset. The ability of a principal to navigate these tricky waters will determine their level of success.
Administrators will usually develop a ‘leaning’ towards one of the four groups mentioned above. Whether as a result of their personality, educational philosophy, or survival instinct, a pattern of choices will emerge, tagging them as a ‘student’s principal’ or a ‘staff principal,’ etc. Some might favor parent satisfaction, leading to complaints that: “The parent body runs this school,” or they may decide that their satisfaction rating with the board of education is the best way to secure their job.
I have always felt that the most valued members of the school community are the teachers. A good teacher impacts all and they are there for life. Happy teachers create a happy school, significantly reducing parent complaints and student issues. Finding ways to create such an environment is crucial to educational excellence.
While keeping students and parents happy in an educational environment is a skill that in many ways is unique to schools, keeping employees happy is not. Much can be learned from other professions that can be applied to teachers as well. A recent blog in the Harvard Business Review took a fresh look at what makes employees happy, yielding the following insights.
When asked how they would like to be rewarded for their performance in addition to their fixed salaries, most employees replied that a raise or bonus which they could spend freely would do the trick. But is there any evidence of this leading to a rise in teacher morale or job satisfaction? According to the authors of the Harvard article, quite the opposite is true. In fact, an array of scientific studies claim that individual rewards—ranging from pay-per-performance to bonuses—are detrimental to employee morale and productivity. Studies show that monetary rewards tend to decrease the individual’s intrinsic motivation and interest for the job. Additionally, when employees compare their end-of-year bonuses, we see more jealousy, anxiety, and competition and less trust, sharing, and teamwork in the workplace.
The author’s radical suggestion: prosocial bonuses. Instead of giving your employees more money to spend on themselves, what if you provide them the same bonuses with one caveat: they must be spent on prosocial actions towards charities and co-workers?
Testing their idea in three countries in varying cultures and workplaces netted the following results: “On sports teams, every $10 spent prosocially led to an 11% increase in winning percentage compared to a two percent decrease in winning for teams where members spent on themselves. On sales teams, $10 for every spent prosocially, the firm gained $52.”
— GlobalGiving (@GlobalGiving) October 17, 2013
While the idea was not tested in schools, it seems evident that the impact in a school environment would be massive. For not only would this make you a better and happier human being, it would also make you a better and happier teacher. Why just teach altruism when you can model altruism? What better way to teach children to share and to care than to share your bonus and demonstrate true care for another class or a fellow teacher?
‘Paying it forward’ may prove that money can buy happiness. The only condition: Spend it on someone else – a brilliant idea that would make King Solomon proud.