Searching for job satisfaction

Below I summarise what were the most important key points within the theme of job satisfaction at work- and organisational psychology course at Bergen University in autumn 2016. 

Job satisfaction

How satisfied are employees to their work? The answer depends on a person, work place and the culture one is living. Many organisations monitor job satisfaction and related employee attitudes, because job satisfaction can have consequences to employee’s behaviour and performance.

Job satisfaction is a person’s evaluation of one’s job and work context. It is anappraisal of the perceived job characteristics, work environment and emotional experiences at work. Satisfied employees have favourable evaluation of their jobs based on their observations and emotional experiences. Job satisfaction is best viewed as a collection of attitudes regarding different aspects of job (job facets) and work context.

Overall job satisfaction can be described using term global job satisfaction. Getting more precise picture of job satisfaction, job satisfaction can be investigated through different parts of the work, through job facets. Normal facet classification divides work into five areas: salary or salary level (comparable), promotions (carrier), colleagues (social network at work), guiding (leadership) and work itself (work content). When measuring job satisfaction both global job satisfaction and job facets should be used.

Job characteristics model explaining job satisfaction

One of the most influential theories about how conditions at work influence employees is the job characteristics model of Hackman and Oldham. They identified five core job dimensions that produce three psychological states for employees. Individuals who experience these tend to have higher level of internal work motivation, job satisfaction, work performance and lower level of turnover and absenteeism. The five core job characteristics are as follows.

  • Skill variety: the extent to which employees must use different skills and talents to perform tasks within their jobs.
  • Task identity: the degree to which a job requires completion of a whole or an identifiable piece of work.
  • Task significance: is the degree to which the job affects the organisation and/or a larger society.
  • Autonomy: the degree to which a job gives employees the freedom, independence, and discretion to schedule their work and determine the procedures used in completing it.
  • Job feedback: is the degree to which employees can tell how well they are doing on the basis of direct sensory information from the job itself.

These five core job characteristics affect employee motivation and satisfaction through three psychological states.

  • Experienced meaningfulness: is the belief that one’s work is worthwhile or important. Skill variety, task identity and task significance directly contribute to this.
  • Experienced responsibility: Work motivation and performance increase when employees feel personally accountable for the outcomes of their efforts.
  • Knowledge of results: Employees want to have info about the consequences of their work effort. Feedback can originate from co-workers, supervisors or clients, but job design focuses on knowledge of results from the work itself.

Job satisfaction and personality

Satisfied employees are better emotionally adjusted than dissatisfied employees. It is an important question, in which level personality is a primary source of job satisfaction or how personality influence together with work conditions to create satisfaction. Job satisfaction can be considered  as a function of personality, job characteristics and interaction between personality and work conditions. Balance between person and environment (person-environment fit) goes on about work place’s and work’s qualities and their compliance with person’s capacities, needs and expectations.

What comes to Big Five personality traits, only  extraversion and neuroticism have showed strong and consistent relationship to job satisfaction. Individuals who experience that it is easy to express their thoughts and feelings for colleagues are more easier satisfied to their work that persons who are more introverts. Also neurotic persons who are easily disturbed and often worry beforehand are more probable dissatisfied at their work.

Positive affectivity is a trait that reflects stable individual differences in positive emotional experience; high levels of the trait are marked by frequent feelings of cheerfulness, enthusiasm, and energy. Negative affectivity is characterised by negative stress, nervousness and unwilling involvement to tasks. Persons who hold a positive affectivity have stronger connection to job satisfaction than persons who hold negative affectivity.

Consequences of job dissatisfaction

Dissatisfied employees are less productive and effective than the employees who are satisfied to their work. Employees respond dissatisfaction in various ways. To some extent and among some people long lasting dissatisfaction can lead leaving the organisation and starting a job in other company. Dissatisfied employees also more often engage themselves in counterproductive work behaviour compared to employees who are satisfied to their jobs. Dissatisfaction can also lead to reducing work effort, paying less attention to quality  and increasing absenteeism and lateness. However, which alternatives a person uses depends on the situation and the person. One determining factor is self-concept e.g some people want to avoid the self image of being a complainer. Also past experiences can influence e.g. if a person has behaved earlier in counterproductive ways, it might be easier to one to continue this behaviour or finally leave the company. Situation can also influence what kind of behaviour person chooses; If there is no other job possibilities in the market, one is not that likely to quit one’s job.

Job satisfaction and productivity

Many studies have showed that relationship between job satisfaction and productivity is moderate. The relationship between these two is stronger in more complex jobs, which offer for employee larger level of autonomy and therefore employee can self influence own job satisfaction level. Many studies have showed that fairness at work is an important moderating condition between job satisfaction and productivity. When there is high job equity e.g. rewards systems are experienced to be fair, there is clearly stronger relationship in relation to job satisfaction and productivity. If reward systems in organisation are long from optimal, it can decrease motivation among employees, something that weaken relationship between job satisfaction and productivity. However, it should also be considered whether relationship between job satisfaction and productivity goes vice-versa. That good performance makes employee feel satisfaction towards one’s work.

To conclude, it is possible to say that research shows that there is relationship between job satisfaction and productivity. Satisfied employees are more productive in their work that employees who are not satisfied. However, satisfaction is not a guarantee of productivity. There are many employees that are effective but not that satisfied to their work. It is also possible to find satisfied employees that are less productive.


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