Negotiate a Career with a Heart for You and Your Employees - Ideas for Leaders
Idea #460

Negotiate a Career with a Heart for You and Your Employees

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A career with a heart goes beyond job satisfaction. It means being delighted with every job in your career. It’s waking up every morning excited to get to work. A career with a heart is a career that is self-directed, generates positive emotions and is integrated with overall life of the individual. Developing such a career takes hard work — and is built on a series of mindful negotiations. 


Do you wake up every morning and cannot wait to start working? Have you been challenged and fulfilled in every step of your career journey? Throughout your many jobs, do you always get the same joy out of working? If so, you have built a ‘career with a heart.’ A career with a heart is more than simple ‘job satisfaction.’ Job satisfaction, after all, is linked to a single job: you are happy with your responsibilities, your salary, your managers and colleagues, the strategy of the organization and a variety of other factors that all disappear when you change jobs. With a career with a heart, you can change jobs and still retain the same enthusiasm for your work because it is the work itself that makes you happy.

According to a research team that brought together specialists in careers, mindfulness and negotiation, a career with a heart consists of three dimensions:

  • Protean orientation. This phrase refers to a career that is self-directed and is aligned with the values of the individual.
  • Positive emotions.  A career must consistently generate positive emotions, such as joy and passion, for the individual.
  • Integrated with life. The career must fit into the person’s broader life choices, beyond the workplace.

One might assume that if you’ve chosen a career you love — medicine or performing arts or a trade about which you’re passionate — then the excitement and joy you take in the work will remain from job to job. In truth, however, constructing a career with a heart takes a series of skilful negotiations.

For example, one of the core dimensions of a career with a heart is, as described above, self-direction: the ability to make your own choices about your work. However, work requires collaboration and interaction. Whether you’re an independent contractor or an employee, managing your career will require you to negotiate with employers, customers partners, colleagues and even family members — to name a few of the people who will impact your career.

The key to successfully negotiating a career with a heart is mindful negotiation — negotiating that goes beyond ‘hammering out’ the details of an agreement, but, instead, takes into account the holistic relationship between the counterparts in the negotiation. The goal of mindful negotiation, in other words, is not to check off the boxes of issues to be resolved and decisions to be made (e.g. tasks, responsibilities, compensation, and promotions); the goal, instead, is to lay the foundation of a positive, respectful, holistic and humanistic relationship.

Mindful negotiating is based on objective and non-judgemental observation. It is focused on the moment, and disregards any preconceived fears or assumptions as well as any negative emotions that might spontaneously emerge. Flexibility, compassion, empathy for the needs and interests of the other, and creativity in finding solutions that help achieve ambitious goals and create value for all parties are vital in the process. Negotiating for a career with a heart does not mean discounting the objective specifics (e.g. pay or status); however, it does mean focusing just as much on the subjective elements of success, notably the three dimensions of a career of self-direction and alignment with values, positive emotions, and life integration.


This research has implications for both business leaders and employees or the self-employed. Employees and contractors must negotiate with a more holistic goal in mind, beyond the more direct goals of job negotiations (e.g. money).

It’s important to note that careers with a heart are not limited to higher-level careers that offer opportunities for learning, growth and being challenged. Any career can be a career with a heart as long as the three dimensions are present. Often, what many might consider routine jobs meant to bring home a pay check and nothing more can be as fulfilling and aligned with a person’s values as a highly paid status job on the upper rungs of a corporation.

Business leaders employing blue collar or administrative workers need to help individuals identify the three elements of a career with a heart and ensure that the responsibilities, challenges and rewards of the career fulfil the requirements for those dimensions. A business or organization will only benefit from workers who are not just satisfied with their jobs, but excited and passionate about their careers.



Mindfully Negotiating a Career with a Heart. Shirli Kopelman, Elana R. Feldman, Dana M. McDaniel & Douglas T. (Tim) Hall. Organizational Dynamics (April 2012). 

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Idea conceived

April 1, 2012

Idea posted

Nov 2014
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