Job Satisfaction

Job Satisfaction: Breaking It Down

Job satisfaction is the pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of an individual’s job or job experience as achieving or facilitating the achievement of one’s job values.— Locke (1976)
  • Job satisfaction may be defined as the overall fulfillment that results from the affective experience of one’s job situation and its relationship to matching one’s values and fulfilling one’s needs and expectations.

In other words, job satisfaction is the attitude that results when one feels contented, and how the job contributes to those feelings.

The associative likingness or dislikingness differ from individual to individual with respect to job contextual factors or job content factors.

Some people give much importance to job contextual factors like salary, security, supervision, supportive colleagues, company policy, working conditions, perquisites, promotions, equitable rewards etc. Whereas others may show much interest in job content factors such as advancement, challenging assignments, career progress, appreciation and recognition, work itself.

Importance of Job Satisfaction

Research results showed that the job satisfaction had a powerful impact on improving productivityOpens in new window, enhancing quality requirements, reduced absenteeism rate and employee turnover.

Job satisfaction is a key facet in any work motivationOpens in new window or performanceOpens in new window model and is generally influenced by a number of factors including, leader behavior, situational characteristics, leader characteristics, and member characteristics.

Individual factors that most strongly influence job satisfaction or dissatisfaction typically include: supervision, autonomyOpens in new window, professional growth, social outcome, security, pay, and benefits.

Job satisfaction or dissatisfaction is hypothesized to be influential factors in a number of organizational behavior outcomes in addition to motivation and performance. The importance of understanding job satisfaction is in the potential benefits that an organization may reap in the areas of reducing absenteeism and turnover and increasing job performance.

Two Primary Components of Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is an attitude that represents the extent to which a person likes or dislikes his or her job (Brief, 1998). Like other attitudes, job satisfaction includes both an affective and a cognitive component (Schleicher, Watt, & Greguras, 2004).

  1. The affective component of job satisfaction reflects negative or positive affects—the emotions or feelings one has in response to one’s job. For example, feelings of excitement, contentment or joy.
  2. The cognitive component refers to employee’s evaluation of the job. More specifically, it refers to the employee’s thoughts or beliefs about the job. For example, beliefs that one’s job offers autonomy, challenging or variety.

As discussed below, the global satisfaction approach and the facet satisfaction approach represent the two primary ways of conceptualizing job satisfaction.

Global job satisfaction

Global job satisfaction focuses on workers’ overall attitude toward their jobs and is illustrated by the following self-reports items from the Michigan Organizational Assessment Questionnaire (Cammann, Fichman, Jenkins, & Klesh, 1979):

  • ‘All in all I am satisfied with my job.’
  • ‘In general, I like working here.’
  • ‘In general, I don’t like my job.’ (Note that this their item is reverse-scored.)
Facet job satisfaction

Facet job satisfaction, on the other hand, focuses on workers’ attitudes toward specific aspects of their job. For example, the Job Descriptive Index (JDI; Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969), the most commonly used measure of facet satisfaction, assesses satisfaction with five specific aspects of work:

  1. work tasks,
  2. supervision,
  3. co-workers,
  4. pay and
  5. promotional opportunities.

The JDI, like other facet satisfaction measures, yields separate satisfaction scores for each job satisfaction sub-dimension. Thus, the facet approach recognizes that a given worker can be satisfied with some aspects of work, but dissatisfied with others.

The following example items from Beehr et al. (2006) are representative of the type of content typically assessed by facet satisfaction measures:

  • ‘All in all, I am very satisfied with the things I do at work.’ (satisfaction with work tasks)
  • ‘Overall, I am very pleased with the way my manager supervises me.’ (satisfaction with supervision)
  • ‘I am more pleased with my co-workers than with almost anyone I have ever worked with before.’ (satisfaction with co-workers)
  • ‘All in all, I am very satisfied with my pay.’ (satisfaction with pay)
  • ‘All in all, I am very satisfied with my chances for promotion.’ (satisfaction with promotional opportunities)

Antecedents of Job Satisfaction

The major factors that influence job satisfaction can be grouped into six dimensions; these are briefly discussed below.

  1. The Work Itself
    The content of the work itself is a major factor from which job satisfaction is derived. Studies have shown that the most crucial ingredients of a satisfying job are interesting and challenging work, opportunities for learning, taking responsibility and skill variety.

    Herzberg (1968) identified work itself as a source leading to satisfaction because of challenging tasks are said to be stimuli to induce growth.
  2. Pay and Benefits
    The amount of equitable financial compensation is another major factor contributing to job satisfaction. Money, for example, helps to satisfy people’s basic needs and is instrumental for higher-level need satisfaction. This implies money facilitates satisfaction of Maslow’s (1970) lower-order needs and when these are met, ensures that individuals can progress along the hierarchy of needs.

    Employees often perceive pay as a reflection of how management views their contribution to the organization. Fringe benefits, e.g. health insurance, pension schemes, are also important but they are not as influential.
  3. Promotion
    The level of satisfaction with promotional opportunities varies because promotions take a number of different forms and have a variety of rewards attached i.e., promotion could take place on the basis of performance or seniority.

    Promotion based on performance may facilitate psychological growth as the promotion might be given as the result of completing a challenging task successfully. Thus, promotion may be seen as equivalent to recognition which was identified as a source of satisfaction by Herzberg (1968).
  4. Supervision
    The abilities of the supervisor to provide technical assistance, behavioral support as well as the degree to which the supervisor takes a personal interest in the employee’s welfare is another determinant of job satisfaction.
  5. Co-Workers
    Friendly, co-operative co-workers or team members are a modest source of job satisfaction to individual employees. A good or effective work group serves as a source of support, comfort, advice and assistance to the individual and can make the job more enjoyable.
  6. Working Conditions
    If working conditions are good, comfortable and safe, the employees will find it easier to do their jobs so that reasonable job satisfaction may ensue. If, on the other hand, working conditions are poor (e.g. noisy, hot), personnel will find it difficult to get the job done. Thus, poor working conditions can have a negative effect on job satisfaction.

Luthans (1998) suggests that these factors are more likely to be associated with job satisfaction rather than with dissatisfaction. To these job related factors can be added the individual factors the person brings to the job such as personality, expectations and prior experiences. According to Specter (1997), both categories of antecedents work together to influence employee job satisfaction in a positive or negative way.

Theoretical Approaches to Job Satisfaction

  1. Edward E. Lawler’s facet satisfaction model is a widely recognized theoretical approach to job satisfaction. The foundation of this theory is that satisfaction is determined by a discrepancy between what a worker believes he or she should receive within a certain facet (pay, advancement) of a job and what one has actually received. This theory is an extension of Edwin A. Locke’s 1976 discrepancy theory and J. Stacey Adam’s 1963 theory of inequity.

    Essentially, Lawler posited that workers’ feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their work will be dependent on the value they place on particular facets of their job (e.g., level of responsibility, degree of autonomy). If a worker places high value on a particular facet, the worker’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction will be seriously impacted depending on his or her perception of the degree of the availability of the facet. This contrasts with other workers who may not place as much value on the same facet, which lends further credence to individualized context to satisfaction.
  2. A second theory of job satisfaction is employee motivation expert Frederick Herzberg’s two-factor theory. Herzberg (1966) surmised that satisfaction and dissatisfaction were not opposite ends of one continuum, but parallel concepts. This theory states that satisfaction is driven by motivation factors and dissatisfaction is driven by hygiene factors. Motivation, and thus satisfaction, is defined as intrinsic factors to a job. Such factors include: autonomy, job growth, training opportunities, responsiveness, and responsibility. Hygiene factors, which lead to dissatisfaction in their absence, include pay, benefits, and company policies, among others. The key difference in motivation and hygiene factors is the intrinsic and extrinsic nature of each. Factors such as pay are typically out of the direct control of the worker.

Additionally, some theorists believe that satisfaction is accomplished by having one’s needs met. There are a number of need-based satisfaction theories that are worth mentioning. The Minnesota Model of Job Satisfaction identifies six dimensions of satisfaction: achievement, comfort, status, altruism, safety, and autonomyOpens in new window. Within each dimension there are specific needs that must be met for job satisfaction to occur.

Another theory is scholar Patricia Cain Smith’s Facets of Job Satisfaction. Smith and colleagues also try to capture the need-based factors of job satisfaction. The factors examined by Smith include: the job itself, pay, promotion, coworkers, and supervision.

Job satisfaction may be difficult to measure because of the global nature of what is being measured and the importance of the individual facets that may or may not be interconnected. It may serve management better to be acutely aware of the individual nature of job satisfaction and address individual factors while considering individual context and experience. While this makes the employer-employee relationship less generalizable, it may be necessary to address individual needs and preferences as much as possible to maximize organizational productivity.