Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Job satisfaction

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Job satisfaction:
What are the main ingredients for job satisfaction?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Job satisfaction is a measure of how content someone is with various aspects of their work. Consider Josephine: she works in a biscuit factory in Melbourne. She works full time, Monday to Friday from 7am to 4pm and is often so exhausted that she does not have the energy to do much after work. Josephine worries a lot about her job security because the company has cut staff before and is considering doing so again. Staff at the factory have been lobbying for higher wages but the company says it can't afford that. As a result, Josephine dislikes her job and has been tentatively looking for a different job over the last month.

Situations like those of Josephine, and of the man wearing the advertising sandwich board in the image in Figure 1, are the sorts of scenarios that the study of job satisfaction looks at. Low job satisfaction often leads to lower performance or to people leaving their job (Dias, Leite, Ramires & Bicho, 2017). On the other hand, high job satisfaction makes people perform better: Judge, Thoresen, Bono, and Patton (2001) found a moderate correlation between job satisfaction and job performance (.30), which was higher for complex jobs than less complex jobs. This indicates that job satisfaction will cause people to put more effort into work and pay more attention to their performance even in more cognitively demanding jobs. In addition, people satisfied with their job are more likely to stay at their job. There is also a significant correlation between job satisfaction and job engagement (Wen, Gu and Wen, 2019). Job satisfaction is therefore of interest to organisational psychologists.

There are multiple psychological models for understanding job satisfaction and what influences it. This chapter will outline these models, look at some of the measures used to quantify job satisfaction, and examine the many factors which have been suggested to contribute to job satisfaction. By the end of this chapter, you should know:

  • Why job satisfaction matters
  • Models for understanding job satisfaction and how it operates
  • What sorts of external and internal factors can influence job satisfaction
  • How our understanding of job satisfaction can be applied in the workplace to improve emotional and motivational outcomes for individuals and organisations
Figure 1. A man who does not appear to have high job satisfaction [1]

Models of job satisfaction[edit | edit source]

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Dispositional approach[edit | edit source]

The dispositional approach attempts to explain variation in job satisfaction as a results of personality differences (differences in dispositions). It was suggested that personality differences might account for why job satisfaction is stable over time and between jobs. In 1997, Judge, Locke and Durham developed the core self-evaluation approached to try to limit the scope of the dispositional approach. They viewed core self-evaluation as a broad dispositional trait which covers four more specific traits: self-esteem, generalised self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability (low neuroticism). In 2001, Judge and Bono conducted a meta-analysis to investigate the relationship between these four specific traits and job satisfaction. They found support for their theory with all four traits being positively correlated with job satisfaction. Generalised self-efficacy had this strongest relationships followed by locus of control. This theory locates the core of job satisfaction in an individual's personality and traits, which will be examined in more detail below.

Equity theory[edit | edit source]

Equity theory assumes that people have more job satisfaction when they feel like their workplace values equality. Equity is not just a matter of pay but applies to any exchange between workers and management. The theory argues that if people feel like they are not being treated fairly then they will have low job satisfaction, and they will feel similarly distressed if they feel they are being over-rewarded (Adams, 1963). This relates in turn to external factors of job satisfaction, such as praise, autonomy and the ability of employees to address their concerns through work councils.

Discrepancy theory[edit | edit source]

Self-discrepancy theory argues that people have low job satisfaction when there is a gap between the expectations placed on them at work and how they actually perform. This discrepancy can lead to anxiety or depression when considering one's work (Higgins, 1987). Discrepancy theory focuses on a combination of personality, motivation and personal abilities, offering a broader range of influences than the dispositional approach or equity theory. However, it is a rather simplistic theory, arguing that it is a mere mismatch between expectations and realities that accounts for job dissatisfaction.

Two factor model (motivator-hygiene theory)[edit | edit source]

Herzberg (1967) developed the two factor model as a result of conducting surveys among workers. The first factor in his model is hygiene. This involves the conditions in which the worker does their job, for example supervision, interpersonal relationships, physical working conditions, salary, company policy, administration or job security. If these factors are considered unacceptable then the worker will have low job satisfaction. However, acceptable hygiene conditions do not lead to higher job satisfaction. In order to get positive job satisfaction, there have to be motivators. Motivators are things which contribute to self actualisation in work. For example, ability to progress, feeling challenged by work, feeling able to achieve goals, holding some level of responsibility, and being recognised for one's work. The two factor model incorporates both internal and external influences on job satisfaction, and as such offers a strong argument for the nature of job satisfaction.

Factors influencing job satisfaction[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Internal factors[edit | edit source]

Internal factors refer to aspects of a person and how those aspects influence their job satisfaction. The most significant internal factors are personality, work-life balance, life satisfaction and motivation. These are investigated in more depth below.

Personality[edit | edit source]

Personality is a major factor in everyone's life - our personality is relatively stable by the time we enter the full time workforce. This is demonstrated in the fact that personality best predicts behaviour across different situations rather than in specific situations (Aries, Gold & Weigel, 1983, cited in Staw & Ross, 1985). Job satisfaction is also fairly stable over time, even when a person changes company or career (Staw & Ross, 1985). This indicates that personality does in fact contribute to job satisfaction, as personality is also stable over time. The relationship between personality and job satisfaction is therefore likely to be very important for understanding how individual differences affects our motivational and emotional lives.

A metastudy by Judge, Heller and Mount (2002) investigated the relationships found between the traits of the Five Factor Model and job satisfaction. They found that, over a large number of studies, Neuroticism was negatively correlated with job satisfaction and Extraversion and Conscientiousness were positively correlated with job satisfaction. Agreeableness and Openness to experience were not found to significantly relate to job satisfaction. Mathieu (2013) investigated the relationship between narcissism and job satisfaction. Narcissism is a positively related to Extraversion and negatively related to Agreeableness. Mathieu found that that narcissism was negatively correlated with job satisfaction, which conflicts with the findings of Judge and Mount.

People have also been found to sort themselves into occupation according to personality type, to some extent (Tornroos, Jokela & Hakulinen, 2019). They used the Five Factor Model of personality to find groupings of particular personality traits in occupations with common focuses. For Neuroticism and Openness to experience, the extent to which an individual fits with the average levels of these traits significantly impacts job satisfaction. For example, an individual with low Neuroticism working in a field where the average person has high Neuroticism tends to have low job satisfaction.

These findings indicate that selecting people with appropriate personality traits for a given job leads to a better fit for individuals and better cohesion between colleagues. In other words, understanding how personality relates to job satisfaction can help us build workplaces with happier employees.

Work-life balance[edit | edit source]

Work-life balance broadly refers to an individual's subjective feelings that their work life does not encroach on their life outside work and that they have enough time outside of work to pursue things they enjoy. Especially in the modern world, work-life balance can be difficult for some people to achieve. Understanding its impacts on job satisfaction may help to promote more balance in organisations to achieve higher employee satisfaction and retention.

A study by Haar, Russo, Suñe and Ollier-Malaterre (2014) looked at work-life balance and job satisfaction across seven cultures. They found that work-life balance was positively associated with job satisfaction, but this relationship was stronger in individualistic cultures and in cultures with a higher level of gender equality, and lower in collectivist cultures. They thought that this may be due to the fact that in individualistic cultures, work-life balance may play a greater role in subjective experiences of satisfaction with one's jobs and one's life. Alternatively, they suggested that in individualistic cultures, achieving work-life balance is seen as the responsibility of the individual, so achieving this may have more of an impact because people see it as personal success. They attempted to explain the difference between cultures with different levels of gender equality by suggesting that perhaps in more egalitarian countries, both women and men perceive similar levels of opportunity. Alternatively, they suggested that maybe in countries with higher gender equality, both men and women felt able to balance parenthood with work, which may contribute to feelings of work-life balance.

These results indicate that, at least in the west, achieving higher work-life balance among staff can lead to better emotional and workplace outcomes.

Life satisfaction[edit | edit source]

Life satisfaction refers to overall satisfaction in all areas of an individual's life. Judge and Watanabe (1994) argued that individuals can be classified by their life satisfaction into three groups. On the basis of a national sample of US workers, they found that 68% of workers belonged to the 'spillover group', where job satisfaction spills over into life satisfaction and vice versa. They found that 20% belonged to the 'segmentation group', where job and life satisfaction were segmented and distinct, and 12% belonged to the 'compensation group', where a lack in one area led to increased effort to improve satisfaction in the other area. Thus, the spillover model, whereby job and life satisfaction influence each other, appears to characterise most U.S. employees. It is likely that these findings would be similar across Western countries, so it is clear that job satisfaction has impacts on broader happiness, and broader happiness can influence job satisfaction.

Motivation[edit | edit source]

Dias, Leite, Ramires & Bicho (2017) found that job satisfaction among doctors correlated significantly with motivators such as achievement, pay, co-workers and job attributes (self-esteem). Of these factors, pay is more important for more senior doctors than junior doctors, but achievement and personal development are most significant overall.

Homberg and McCarthy (2015) conducted a metastudy of motivation and job satisfaction among public servants. They found that individuals motivated by desire to serve the public experienced greater job satisfaction in public service roles. This relationship becomes even stronger when an individual’s job explicitly allows them to serve the public. This study indicates that people feel the most job satisfaction when their job allows them to explicitly act on the things that motivate them.

A study of job satisfaction among German dentists using the Two-Factor model found that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators play a significant role in determining job satisfaction (Goetz et al.,2012). Extrinsic motivators include job security, salary and working conditions, and the absence of extrinsic motivators leads to lower job satisfaction. Intrinsic motivators include recognition and responsibility, and their presence leads to higher job satisfaction. So, while both extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors are important for job satisfaction, intrinsic factors have the most positive, satisfaction-building impact.

Review questions[edit | edit source]

1 Looking at the literature overall, which of these FFM personality traits tends to be negatively correlated with job satisfaction:

Openness to experience
Agreeableness
Neuroticism
Extraversion

2 Who has the highest job satisfaction?

Steven works as a public servant in the tax office. He is very interested in working for the good of the public, but sometimes feels like the tax office is not the right place to do that.
Alex works in the environment department doing community outreach. He has always wanted to help the public and he likes his job.
Daisy works in the office of public health. Her role is to work with members of the public to maximise the success of public health projects. However, Daisy always wanted to be a singer.
Conner works in the department of defence. The pay is good but Conner wishes he had opened his own bakery.


External factors[edit | edit source]

External factors are aspects of work which are not part of the individual and are not always under their control. Some of the most significant external factors are job characteristics, praise received from supervisors and the presence or absence of work councils. These are examined in more detail below.

Job characteristics[edit | edit source]

In a study examining the importance of job attributes, employees ranked interesting work as the most important job attribute and good wages ranked fifth, whereas when it came to what managers thought employees wanted, good wages ranked first while interesting work ranked fifth (Kovach, 1995). Sojane, Klopper and Coetzee (2016) found that opportunities to advance one’s career led to higher job satisfaction. Similar results were found among teachers in Norway, where autonomy and self-efficacy were both positively related to engagement and job satisfaction (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2014). Kim and Yang (2016) found that rewards, director’s support, collegial relationships, and participation in organisational decision making all had positive influences on job satisfaction in a study of child care workers in South Korea. These factors, say Kim and Yang, are similar to ones found in Western workers. This indicates that some aspects of job satisfaction are may be cross cultural.

Praise[edit | edit source]

Praise is, at its core, saying positive things about somebody and their work. As stated by Sveinsdóttir, Ragnarsdóttir and Blöndal (2015, p. 559), "praise plays a crucial role in leadership, empowerment, supervision, encouragement, mentoring, recognizing achievements and maintaining professional standards that influence employees’ welfare."

Sojane, Klopper and Coetzee (2016), in their study of registered nurses in South Africa, found that nurses who did not report receiving praise and recognition for their work from those in leadership positions (managers) were more likely to intend to leave. This is supported by a study which looked into the relationship between praise for one’s work by managers and job satisfaction among nurses in Iceland (Sveinsdóttir, Ragnarsdóttir & Blöndal, 2015). The study found that nurses who were praised often by their managers reported higher job satisfaction and loyalty in the form of no intention to leave. However, they noted that their study design meant that they could not draw causal inferences.

Amabile and Kramer (2007) discussed the negative impacts that result when a worker has done good work but they are not recognised for it. On the other hand, they point out that praise without good work does not lead to improved employee emotions and may even lead to cynicism. It is important therefore, for managers and bosses to deliver praise in appropriate situations but not to see it as an easy fix for everything.

Work councils[edit | edit source]

Heywood, Siebert and Wei (2002) discuss the trend across the literature that shows that individuals working in jobs with a union or workers' council tend to have lower job satisfaction. Several suggestions have been given for why: Freeman and Medoff (1984, cited in Heywood, Siebert and Wei, 2002) argue that dissatisfied workers without a union tend to quit, whereas for jobs with a union, dissatisfaction is expressed through the 'voice' mechanism of the union, encouraging workers to stay in the hope that they can improve conditions from the inside. Duncan and Stafford (1980) argued that unions arise because of difficult working conditions, so it's to be expected that there is higher dissatisfaction in these tough industries.

Who has the most job satisfaction?

Emily works as a nurse. She has a good team and a good manager who praises her when she does well. She is also studying part time so that she can move up the ranks at work.
Tom works as an early childhood educator. He has been working at his current job for six years, so the manager trusts him and allows him his own autonomy. However, he is not likely to be able to advance his career.
Richard works as a nurse but feels undervalued by his supervisor because she always criticises him.


Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Job satisfaction is influenced by a number of external as well as internal factors. Some internal factors such as personality and motivation are difficult to change. However, if recruitment teams become aware that creating workforces of people with similar personality types and motivations appropriate for the job can lead to happier and therefore more productive employees, then that would benefit everyone. Enabling employees to have adequate time outside of work to have work-life balance is another way in which organisations can develop a happy workforce.

In terms of external factors, there appears to be a mismatch between what employers think is important to their employees and what the employed themselves consider important. Gaining a better idea of what actually matters to employees will allow organisations to retain their employees for longer, which would benefit the organisations. For example, things important to employees include receiving appropriate praise and allowing employees to feel like they have the level of autonomy, whether this is through participating in organisational decision-making or allowing employees the opportunity to improve their skills and progress their career.

Of course, work councils also contribute to job satisfaction. Work council are important because they provide an avenue for employees to bargain for the above sorts of improvements for their work places. This is key when so many factors influencing job satisfaction are at least partly under the control of the organisation. Therefore, permitting employees to form work council must be fundamental to developing positive relationships between staff and management, as well as happy employees.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Adams, J. (1963). Towards an understanding of inequity. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(5), 422–436. doi:10.1037/h0040968.

Amabile, T., & Kramer, S. (2007). Inner work life understanding the subtext of business performance. Harvard Business Review : HBR, 85(5), 72–83.

Dias, D., Leite, Â., Ramires, A., & Bicho, P. (2017). Working with cancer: Motivation and job satisfaction. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 25(4), 662-686. doi:10.1108/IJOA-12-2016-1096.

Duncan, G., & Stafford, F. (1980). Do Union Members Receive Compensating Wage Differentials? The American Economic Review, 70(3), 355–371.

Goetz K., Campbell S. M., Broge B., Dörfer C. E., Brodowski M., & Szecsenyi J. (2012). The impact of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on the job satisfaction of dentists. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol, 40, 474–580.

Haar, J. M., Russo, M., Suñe, A., & Ollier-Malaterre, A. (2014). Outcomes of work–life balance on job satisfaction, life satisfaction and mental health: A study across seven cultures.Journal of Vocational Behavior, 85(3), 361-373. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2014.08.010.

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. (1959). The motivation to work (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.

Heywood, J. S., Siebert, W., & Wei, X. (2002). Worker Sorting and Job Satisfaction: The Case of Union and Government Jobs. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 55, 595–716.

Higgins, E. (1987). Self-Discrepancy: A Theory Relating Self and Affect. Psychological Review, 94(3), 319–340. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.94.3.319

Homberg, F., McCarthy, D., & Tabvuma, V. (2015). A Meta‐Analysis of the relationship between public service motivation and job satisfaction. Public Administration Review, 75(5), 711-722. doi:10.1111/puar.12423.

Judge, T., & Bono, J. (2001). Relationship of core self-evaluations traits-self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability-with job satisfaction and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(1), 80–92. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.86.1.80.

Judge, T., Heller, D., & Mount, M. K. (2002). Five-factor model of personality and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(3), 530-541. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.87.3.530.

Judge, T., Locke, E. A., Durham, C. C., & Kluger, A. N. (1998). Dispositional Effects on Job and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Core Evaluations. Journal of Applied Psychology 83(1), 17–34.

Judge, T., Thoresen, C. J., Bono, J. E., & Patton, G. K. (2001). The job satisfaction-job performance relationship: A qualitative and quantitative review. Psychological Bulletin, 127(3), 376-407. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.127.3.376.

Judge, T., & Watanabe, S. (1993). Another look at the job satisfaction^life satisfaction relationship. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78(6), 939-948. doi:10.1037//0021-9010.78.6.939.

Kim, S, & Yang, S. (2016). Childcare teachers’ job satisfaction: Effects of personality, conflict-handling, and organizational characteristics. Social Behavior and Personality, 44(2), 177-184. doi:10.2224/sbp.2016.44.2.177.

Mathieu, C. (2013). Personality and job satisfaction: The role of narcissism. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(6), 650-654. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2013.05.012.

Saari, L. M., & Judge, T. A. (2004). Employee attitudes and job satisfaction. Human Resource Management, 43(4), 395-407. doi:10.1002/hrm.20032.

Skaalvik, E. M., & Skaalvik, S. (2014). Teacher self-efficacy and perceived autonomy: Relations with teacher engagement, job satisfaction, and emotional exhaustion.Psychological Reports, 114(1), 68-77. doi:10.2466/14.02.PR0.114k14w0.

Sojane, J. S., Klopper, H. C., & Coetzee, S. K. (2016). Leadership, job satisfaction and intention to leave among registered nurses in the north west and free state provinces of south africa. Curationis, 39(1), 1585-1585. doi:10.4102/cur.v39i1.1585.

Staw, B., & Ross, J. (1985). Stability in the midst of change: A dispositional approach to job attitudes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70(3), 469–480. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.70.3.469.

Sveinsdóttir, H., Ragnarsdóttir, E. D., & Blöndal, K. (2016). Praise matters: The influence of nurse unit managers' praise on nurses' practice, work environment and job satisfaction: A questionnaire study. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 72(3), 558-568. doi:10.1111/jan.12849.

Törnroos, M., Jokela, M., & Hakulinen, C. (2019). The relationship between personality and job satisfaction across occupations. Personality and Individual Differences, 145, 82-88. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2019.03.027.

Wen, X, Gu, L, & Wen, S. (2019). Job satisfaction and job engagement: Empirical evidence from food safety workers in Guangdong, China. Journal of Cleaner Production, 208, 999-1008. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.10.089.

External links[edit | edit source]

  1. File:Job Satisfaction (7928136036).jpg. (2012). Retrieved 23 August 2019, Wikimedia Commons.