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Job Satisfaction Overview

Job satisfaction is the most widely investigated job attitude, as well as one of the most extensively researched subjects in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (Judge & Church, 2000). Many work motivation theories have represented the implied role of job satisfaction. In addition, many work satisfaction theories have tried to explain job satisfaction and its influence, such as: Maslow’s (1943) Hierarchy of Needs, Hertzberg’s (1968) Two-Factor (Motivator-Hygiene) Theory, Adam’s (1965) Equity Theory, Porter and Lawler’s (1968) modified version of Vroom’s (1964) VIE Model, Locke’s (1969) Discrepancy Theory, Hackman and Oldham’s (1976) Job Characteristics Model, Locke’s (1976) Range of Affect Theory, Bandura’s (1977) Social Learning Theory, and Landy’s (1978) Opponent Process Theory.

As a result of this expansive research, job satisfaction has been linked to productivity, motivation, absenteeism/tardiness, accidents, mental/physical health, and general life satisfaction (Landy, 1978). A common idea within the research has been that, to some extent, the emotional state of an individual is affected by interactions with their work environment. People identify themselves by their profession, such as a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. A person’s individual well-being at work, therefore, is a very significant aspect of research (Judge & Klinger, 2007). 

The most widely accepted explanation of job satisfaction was presented by Locke (1976), who defined job satisfaction as “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experiences” (Locke, 1975, p.1304). Additionally, job satisfaction has emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components (Bernstein & Nash, 2008). The emotional component refers to feelings regarding the job, such as boredom, anxiety, or excitement. The cognitive component of job satisfaction refers to beliefs regarding one's job, for example, feeling that one's job is mentally demanding and challenging. Finally, the behavioral component includes people's actions in relation to their work, which may include being tardy, staying late, or pretending to be ill in order to avoid work (Bernstein & Nash, 2008). 

There are two types of job satisfaction based on the level of employees' feelings about their jobs. The first, and most studied, is global job satisfaction, which refers to employees' overall feelings about their jobs (e.g., "Overall, I love my job.") (Mueller & Kim, 2008). The second is job facet satisfaction, which refers to feelings about specific job aspects, such as salary, benefits, and the quality of relationships with one's co-workers (e.g., "Overall, I love my job, but my schedule is difficult to manage.") (Mueller & Kim, 2008). According to Kerber and Campbell (1987), measurements of job facet satisfaction may be helpful in identifying which specific aspects of a job require improvements. The results may aid organizations in improving overall job satisfaction or in explaining organizational issues such as high turnover (Kerber & Campbell, 1987). 

There are several misleading notions that exist about job satisfaction. One such fallacy is that a happy employee is a productive employee (Syptak, Marsland, & Ulmer, 1999). Research has offered little support that a happy employee is productive; furthermore, some research has suggested that causality may flow in the opposite direction, from productivity to satisfaction (Bassett, 1994). There might be a correlation, but it is a weak one. Knowing that research does not support the idea that happiness and employee satisfaction creates higher production, why do I/O psychologists and organizations still attempt to keep employees happy? Many have pointed out that I/O psychologists research more than just increasing the bottom line of an organization. Happy employees do not negatively affect productivity and can have a positive effect on society; therefore, it still benefits all parties to have happy and satisfied employees. Another fallacy is that pay is the most important factor in job satisfaction. In reality, employees are more satisfied when they enjoy the environment in which they work (Berry, 1997). An individual can have a high paying job and not be satisfied because it is boring and lacks sufficient stimulation. In fact, a low-paying job can be seen as satisfying if it is adequately challenging or stimulating. There are numerous factors that must be taken into consideration when determining how satisfied an employee is with his or her job, and it is not always easy to determine which factors are most important to each employee. Job satisfaction is very subjective for each employee and each situation being assessed.


Figure 1. Components of job satisfaction ( The Pennsylvania State University, 2010).

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Variables of Job Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction

People tend to evaluate their work experiences in terms of liking or disliking their jobs and develop feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction regarding their job, as well as the organization in which they work (Jex, 2002). There are many probable influences that affect how favorably an individual appraises his or her job. Through years of extensive research, I/O psychologists have identified numerous variables that seem to contribute to either job satisfaction or organizational commitment (Glisson & Durick, 1988). To explain the development of job satisfaction, researchers have taken three common approaches: job characteristics, social information processing (organizational characteristics), and dispositional (worker characteristics) (Glisson & Durick, 1988; Jex, 2002). 

Job Characteristics

In relation to the job characteristics approach, research has revealed that the nature of an individual’s job or the characteristics of the organization that the individual works for predominantly determines job satisfaction (Jex, 2002). According to Hackman and Oldham (1980), a job characteristic is an aspect of a job that generates ideal conditions for high levels of motivation, satisfaction, and performance. Furthermore, Hackman and Oldham (1980) proposed five core job characteristics that all jobs should contain: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. Hackman and Oldham (1980) also defined four personal and work outcomes: internal work motivation, growth satisfaction, general satisfaction, and work effectiveness. These characteristics have been added to the more popular dimensions of job satisfaction assessment: the work itself, pay, promotional opportunities, supervision, and co-worker relations (Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969). 

A common premise in research of the effects of job circumstances on job satisfaction is that individuals determine job satisfaction by comparing what they are currently receiving from the job and what they would like to or believe that they should receive (Jex, 2002).  For example, if an employee is receiving an annual salary of $45,000 and believes that he or she should be receiving a salary of $43,000, then he or she will experience satisfaction; however, if the employee believes that he or she should be receiving $53,000, then he or she will feel dissatisfaction. This comparison would apply to each job facet including: skill level, seniority, promotional opportunities, supervision, etc. (Jex, 2002).

According to Locke (1976), this process becomes complex since the importance of work facets differs for each individual. For example, one employee may feel that pay rate is extremely important while another may feel that social relationships are more important. To explain the effects of these differences, Locke (1976) put forward the ideas of the range of affect theory. The hypothesis of this theory is that employees weigh facets differently when assessing job satisfaction (Locke, 1976). Consequently, this leads to an individual measure of satisfaction or dissatisfaction when expectations are met or not. For example, the job satisfaction of an employee who places extreme importance on pay would be positively impacted if he or she receives a salary within expectation. Conversely, his or her level of pay would minimally impact the job satisfaction of an employee who places little importance on pay.  


Figure 2. Job Satisfaction Model (Field, 2008).

Social information processing (organizational characteristics)

Based mainly on Festinger’s (1954) Social Comparison Theory, Jex (2002) explains that during social information processing, employees look to coworkers to make sense of and develop attitudes about their work environment. In other words, if employees see that their coworkers are positive and satisfied then they will most likely be satisfied; however, if their co-workers are negative and dissatisfied then the employee will most likely become dissatisfied as well. Accordingly, organizations are informed that new hires can become “tainted” during the socialization process if they are placed around employees who are dissatisfied (Jex, 2002). Although laboratory studies have found that social information has a prevailing impact on job satisfaction and characteristic perceptions, organizational tests have been less supportive (Jex & Spector, 1989). 

Weiss and Shaw conducted a study that required subjects to view a training video where assembly line workers either made positive or negative comments about their jobs. The subjects who viewed the video were then given the opportunity to perform the job. The study found that the subjects who were shown the positive video enjoyed performing the job tasks more than the subjects who viewed the negative tape (Aamondt, 2009).

Mirolli, Henderson and Hills (1998) also conducted a similar study.  In this study, the subjects performed a task with two experimenters who were pretending to be other subjects (referred to as confederates). In one condition, positive comments were made by the confederates about the job and how much they enjoyed it. In the second condition, the confederates made negative comments about the job and how much they disliked it. In the control condition, no positive or negative comments were made regarding the job. The actual subjects exposed to the confederates who made positive comments rated the job tasks as more enjoyable than the subjects exposed to the negative comments by the confederates. This further supports social information processing theory (Aamondt, 2009).

Generally, “the research on social information processing theory supports the idea that social environment does have an effect on employees’ attitudes and behaviors” (Aamondt, 2009, p. 374).    

As an application of social information processing theory, Netzwerk, an IT company in Germany, implemented rules in their contracts. Employees who work at this company must sign a contract agreeing not to whine or complain. They have even fired employees for excessive whining (Aamondt, 2009). 

Dispositional (worker characteristics)

Internal disposition is the basis of the latest method of explaining job satisfaction and hints that some people are inclined to be satisfied or dissatisfied with their work no matter the nature of the job or the organizational environment (Jex, 2002). More simply, some people are genetically positive in disposition (the glass half full), whereas others are innately negative in disposition (the glass half empty). For instance, a study of twins who were reared apart (same genetic characteristics but different experiences) found that 30 percent of inconsistency in satisfaction was accredited to genetic factors (Arvey, Bouchard, Segal, & Abraham, 1989). Furthermore, although individuals change jobs and employers, individual disposition has been shown to be consistent by the use of survey results on job satisfaction (Staw & Ross, 1985). Additionally, Staw, Bell, and Clausen (1986) found that adolescent evaluations of affective disposition were correlated with adult job satisfaction as many as forty years later. 

Many years of research have been conducted on the dispositional source of job satisfaction, and have presented strong evidence that job satisfaction, to some extent, is based on disposition (Judge & Larsen, 2001). Dispositional affect is the predisposition to experience related emotional moods over time (Judge & Kammeyer-Mueller, 2008). Accordingly, this approach assumes that an employee’s attitude about his or her job originates from an internal (mental) state. Positive affect is a predisposition favorable to positive emotional experience, whereas negative affect is a predisposition to experience a wide array of negative emotions (Watson, Clark, & Carey, 1988). Positive affective people feel enthusiastic, active, alert, and optimistic (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988).  On the contrary, negative affective people feel anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, fear, and nervousness (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988).

There is strong evidence supporting disposition causing job satisfaction from a Social Cognitive aspect as well. Causation through disposition indicates that job satisfaction can be determined by an individual's general overall outlook. In psychology, Cognitive Theory of Depression states that individual’s thought processes and perceptions can be a source of unhappiness. Further, the automated thoughts and processes (Beck, 1987) resulting from irrational and dysfunctional thinking perpetuate emotions of depression and unhappiness in individuals. Judge and Locke (1992) examine these concepts in detail. They discuss cognitive processes like perfectionism, over-generalization, and dependence on others as causation for depression leading to unhappiness. They claim that subjective well-being resulting from an affective disposition leads to individuals experiencing information recall regarding their job. In short, happy individuals tend to store and evaluate job information differently than unhappy individuals do. This type of recollection indicates that job satisfaction can be influenced by subjective well-being. Tait, Padgett, and Baldwin (1989) performed a meta-analytic review discovering an average correlation between job and life satisfaction to be .44, which supports the theory of a dispositional effect on job satisfaction. In addition, Howard and Bray (1988) determined through a study they performed on AT&T managers that motives such as ambition and desire to get ahead serve as some of the strongest predictors for advancement. Also, Bandura (1986) states that individual's aspirations become their standards of self-satisfaction indicating that those with high goals, theoretically, should be harder to satisfy than people with low goals. This would indicate that a high level of ambition resulting from high standards can point to a lower satisfaction as an end result. In addition, it is oftentimes the case that unsatisfied workers are highly ambitious but unhappy as a result of their inability to be promoted within an organization. For this reason, ambition can negatively influence job satisfaction. However, Judge and Locke (1992) caution that dysfunctional thinking is not singularly responsible for dispositional factors affecting job satisfaction. They mention self-esteem, locus of control, self-efficacy, intelligence, and ambition as well.


Social Cognitive aspects have been found to contribute to job satisfaction; however, researchers have not conducted simultaneous comparison of these approaches (Baker, 2004). Job characteristics have been shown to impact job satisfaction (Baker, 2004). Recent studies on social informational processing have found that leadership actions influence job satisfaction (Baker, 2004). Various research findings have indicated that a relationship between disposition and job satisfaction does in fact exist. For instance, Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) advocate that emotionally significant procedures at work may be influenced by disposition, which in turn influences job satisfaction. Job characteristics have been favored in research (Thomas, Bubholtz, & Winklespecht, 2004); however, less research has been conducted on the dispositional approach, since it is fairly new (Coutts & Gruman, 2005).

Figure 3. Facets of job satisfaction ( Hackman & Oldham, 1980; Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969).

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Other Variables of Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction

Life Satisfaction

Life satisfaction is often considered separately from job satisfaction with regard to productivity in the workplace, but as the majority of this research is correlational, it is beneficial to explore potential relationships between these two factors themselves rather than strictly with regard to performance. Research suggests there is in fact a significant relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction, with a correlation of .44 (based on a meta analysis of 34 studies with a combined sample size of 19,811) (Tait et al., 1989). With this relationship being correlational, causation cannot be determined, though it is suggested that the nature of the relationship is reciprocal or bi-directional. (Judge et al., 1993) In other words, life satisfaction may positively influence job satisfaction, and job satisfaction will also positively influence life satisfaction. Conversely, some research suggests that life satisfaction often precedes and is a good predictor of job satisfaction--some directionality (Judge et al., 1993). Whichever the case may be, it cannot be ignored that there is a significant relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction based on correlational research (Jones, 2006).


It is difficult to establish all the antecedents leading towards job satisfaction. However, an additional construct that suggests a positive correlation to job satisfaction not yet discussed is engagement. In a meta-analysis, the correlation between job satisfaction and engagement is .22 (Harter, Schmidt, & Hayes, 2002). Stirling (2008) notes that 20 percent of engaged individuals do 80 percent of the work. Therefore, it is vital to continue to cultivate job satisfaction among these highly productive individuals.

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The Importance of Job Satisfaction

As mentioned in the overview, job satisfaction has been linked to many variables, including performance, absenteeism, and turnover, which will be discussed further in this section.

Job satisfaction is significant because a person's attitude and beliefs may affect his or her behavior. Attitudes and beliefs may cause a person to work harder, or, the opposite may occur, and he or she may work less. Job satisfaction also affects a person's general well being for the reason that people spend a good part of the day at work. Consequently, if a person is dissatisfied with their work, this could lead to dissatisfaction in other areas of their life. 

Employee performance

The link between job satisfaction and job performance has a long and controversial history. Researchers were first made aware of the link between satisfaction and performance through the 1924-1933 Hawthorne studies (Naidu, 1996). Since the Hawthorne studies, numerous researchers have critically examined the idea that "a happy worker is a productive worker". Research results of Iaffaldano and Muchinsky (1985) have found a weak connection, approximately .17, between job satisfaction and job performance. On the other hand, research conducted by Organ (1988) discovered that a stronger connection between performance and satisfaction was not found because of the narrow definition of job performance. Organ (1988) believes that when the definition of job performance includes behaviors such as organizational citizenship (the extent to which one's voluntary support contributes to the success of an organization) the relationship between satisfaction and performance will improve. Judge, Thoreson, Bono, and Patton (2001) discovered that after correcting the sampling and measurement errors of 301 studies, the correlation between job satisfaction and job performance increased to .30. It is important to note that the connection between job satisfaction and job performance is higher for difficult jobs than for less difficult jobs (Saari & Judge, 2004).

A link does exist between job satisfaction and job performance; however, it is not as strong as one would initially believe. The weak link may be attributed to factors such as job structure or economic conditions. For example, some jobs are designed so that a minimum level of performance is required which does not allow for high satisfaction. Additionally, in times of high unemployment, dissatisfied employees will perform well, choosing unsatisfying work over unemployment.

In 2006, researcher Michelle Jones analyzed three studies pulling together 74 separate investigations of job satisfaction and job performance in 12,000 workers. She wrote: "The conclusions drawn by these researchers, and many others, indicate the presence of a positive, but very weak, relationship between job satisfaction and job performance" (Jones, 2006). Jones argues we have been measuring the wrong kind of satisfaction. Instead of job satisfaction, we should be looking at the link between overall satisfaction with life and output at work (Bright, 2008). In this study, Jones implies that the more satisfied we are with our life in general, the more productive we will be in our jobs.

Employee absenteeism

One of the more widely researched topics in Industrial Psychology is the relationship between job satisfaction and employee absenteeism (Cheloha, & Farr, 1980). It seems natural to assume that if individuals dislike their jobs then they will often call in sick, or simply look for a new opportunity. Yet again, the link between these factors and job satisfaction is weak. The correlation between job satisfaction and absenteeism is .25 (Johns, 1997). It is likely that a satisfied worker may miss work due to illness or personal matters, while an unsatisfied worker may not miss work because he or she does not have any sick time and cannot afford the loss of income. When people are satisfied with their job they may be more likely to attend work even if they have a cold; however, if they are not satisfied with their job, they will be more likely to call in sick even when they are well enough to work. 

Employee turnover

According to a meta-analysis of 42 studies, the correlation between job satisfaction and turnover is .24 (Carsten, & Spector, 1987). One obvious factor affecting turnover would be an economic downturn, in which unsatisfied workers may not have other employment opportunities. On the other hand, a satisfied worker may be forced to resign his or her position for personal reasons such as illness or relocation. This holds true for our men and women of the US Armed Forces, who might fit well in a job but are often made to relocate regardless. In this case, it would be next to impossible to measure any correlation of job satisfaction. Furthermore, a person is more likely to be actively searching for another job if they have low satisfaction; whereas, a person who is satisfied with their job is less likely to be job seeking.

Another researcher viewed the relationship between job satisfaction and an employee's intent to leave the organization, turnover intention, as mediated by workplace culture. Medina (2012) found that job satisfaction was strongly inversely correlated with turnover intention and this relationship was mediated by satisfaction in workplace culture. The study provides evidence that should be further explored to aid in the understanding of employee turnover and job satisfaction; particularly in how job satisfaction and employee turnover relate to workplace culture (Medina, 2012).

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The Importance of Job Satisfaction to Employee Retention 

The following video depicts the importance of job satisfaction to employee retention. Employee retention is one of the most difficult operational areas for human resources managers to determine exactly why employees leave the organization, and what they can do to retain them. This is of primary importance because organizations invest significant resources in training, developing, tangible and intangible compensation and taking the time to build organizational citizenship and buy-in to goals and objectives (Kazi, & Zadeh, 2011). In difficult economies and high competition, both organizations and employees want the best resources. Job dissatisfaction leads to job turnover. This dissatisfaction can be from intrinsic or extrinsic factors (PSU WC, L11, p.5). Job turnover can result from various conditions such as job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is multi-faceted, meaning one can be satisfied in one area but does not necessarily mean satisfaction in all areas; likewise, dissatisfaction in one area does not mean complete job dissatisfaction (Kazi, & Zadeh, 2011). Additionally, job turnover can be related to work-life conflict. The work life and personal life is an individual’s experience to maintain harmony (balance) between work and personal relationships. According to Kazi & Zadeh (2011) propose that an imbalance or dissatisfaction in work leads to dissatisfaction in personal life. This can lead to job turnover. This is precisely what Swift (2007) reported in his article about having a more fulfilled and productive workforce. For organizations to stay competitive, they need to understand and address the issues around work-life balance to maintain job satisfaction among employees. To support this idea, Bright (2008) article reports that people who are happy with life are happier employees and show better organizational citizenship, courtesy and conscientiousness. 






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Job Satisfaction and Retirement 

In a 2013 study from Lehigh University, individuals begin to think about retirement in their early years and develop a plan of action over the years. While individuals who begin working a career earlier on in their life plan to retire earlier, individuals who begin a career later in life, plan to retire later in life as well. The research shows that job satisfaction has very little to do with how we plan for our retirement. While the survey shows that many individuals do consider income, location and attitude when discussing retirement options, they do not solely decide if and when retirement is an option for them nor do the factors (poor work environment, long hours, unhappy with position, etc) (Lehigh University, 2013) There are many studies that have questioned if job satisfaction is something that you experience more in your younger years or older. Studies have returned with both sets of results. Some individuals have more job satisfaction in their earlier years while others experience it more when they are older. So, it is undetermined if you will retire from a job that you have been satisfied at or unsatisfied at. 


Application of Job Satisfaction in the Workplace

The application of job satisfaction in the workplace is a tough concept to grasp due to its individualistic and circumstantial nature. What one employee desires from their work, another may not. For instance, one employee may put their salary in high regard, while another may find autonomy most important. Unfortunately, one aspect alone will most likely not effect an employee's job satisfaction. According to Syptak, Marsland, and Ulmer (1999), there are numerous aspects of a job that an organization can manage to increase satisfaction in the workplace, such as:

  • Company Policies - Policies that are clear, fair and applied equally to all employees will decrease dissatisfaction.  Therefore, fairness and clarity are important and can go a long way in improving employee attitude. For example, if a company has a policy for lunch breaks that are the same length and time for everyone, employees will see this as the norm and it will help cut down on wasted time and low productivity.
  • Salary/Benefits - Making sure employee salaries and benefits are comparable to other organization salaries and benefits will help raise satisfaction. If a company wishes to produce a competitive product they must also offer competitive wages. In addition, this can help reduce turnover, as employees will often be more satisfied when paid competitive wages as opposed to being underpaid.
  • Interpersonal/Social Relations - Allowing employees to develop a social aspect to their job may increase satisfaction as well as develop a sense of teamwork. Co-worker relationships may also benefit the organization as a whole; given that, teamwork is a very important aspect of organization productivity and success. Moreover, when people are allowed to develop work relationships they care more about pulling their own weight and not letting co-workers down. Employee involvement groups are a good way to help employee's interact with individuals outside of their department or organization. 
  • Working Conditions - Keeping up to date facilities and equipment and making sure employees have adequate personal workspace can decrease dissatisfaction. A cramped employee is a frustrated employee plus faulty equipment provides frustration in trying to get work done. 
  • Achievement - Making sure employees are in the proper positions to utilize their talents may enhance satisfaction. When employees are in the proper role and feel a sense of achievement and challenge, their talents will be in line with the goals best suited for them.
  • Recognition - Taking the time to acknowledge a job well done can increase the likelihood of employee satisfaction. Positive and constructive feedback boosts an employee's morale and keeps them working in the right direction.
  • Autonomy - Giving employees the freedom of ownership of their work may help raise satisfaction. Job satisfaction may result when an individual knows they are responsible for the outcome of their work. 
  • Advancement - Allowing employees, who show high performance and loyalty, room to advance will help ensure satisfaction. A new title and sense of responsibility can often increase job satisfaction in an employee.
  • Job Security - Especially in times of economic uncertainty, job security is a very high factor in determining an employee's job satisfaction. Giving an employee the assurance that their job is secure will most likely increase job satisfaction.
  • Work-life Balance Practices- In times where the average household is changing it is becoming more important for an employer to recognize the delicate balancing act that its employees perform between their personal life and work life. Policies that respond to common personal and family needs can be essential to maintaining job satisfaction.  
The image above displays the difference in viewpoints between an organization and an individual when it comes to overall job satisfaction.

A study published by The Families and Work Institute shows that, despite the numerous aspects of a job, there are a few that specifically allow for greater improvement of satisfaction. According to their study, workplace support and job quality collectively account for 70 percent of the factors influencing job satisfaction. Surprisingly, earnings and benefits only account for 2 percent (Employee Retention Headquarters, n.d.).


Figure 5. Factors impacting job satisfaction (Employee Retention Headquarters, n.d.).

When it comes to applying job satisfaction in the workplace, it is important to look at all aspects of job satisfaction. Every employee is different and will likely have different views which makes job satisfaction extremely hard to research; however, Everett (1995) suggests that responsible employees ask themselves the following questions:

  • When have I come closest to expressing my full potential in a work situation?
  • What did it look like?
  • What aspects of the workplace were most supportive?
  • What aspects of the work itself were most satisfying?
  • What did I learn from that experience that could be applied to the present situation?

In order for the employee to answer these questions, job satisfaction must be fully deployed within the organization. Listed in the above section are numerous aspects that organizations can utilize to help increase satisfaction. In addition to these aspects, organizations must also look at the needs of the employee. For example, an employee, who is a great asset to the company as he or she is highly educated and motivated, may have personal issues such as a child who requires daycare. As a remedy, organizations could allow flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting, which would create a win-win situation both for the employee and the organization. Additionally, an organization should provide more opportunities for employees to help increase job satisfaction. Consequently, this would peak an interest in the employee, allowing him/her to take more pride in his or her work. Although research might be difficult for job satisfaction theories, especially within the correlation field, there is just enough useful information to help employees and organizations become successful and enjoy their jobs, provided the right type of leadership is at the helm.


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Measures of Job Satisfaction

The following are measures of job satisfaction as outlined by Fields (2002):

  • Overall Job Satisfaction - Cammann, Fichman, Jenkins, and Klesh (1983) developed this measure as part of the Michigan Organizational Assessment Questionnaire (OAQ). In this measure three items are used to describe an employee’s subjective response to working in the specific job and organization (Fields, 2002, p. 20).
  • Job Descriptive Index (JDI) - This was originally developed by Smith, Kendall, and Hulin (1969). There are 72 items on this index which assess five facets of job satisfaction which includes: the work, pay, promotions, supervision, and coworkers. Through the combination of ratings of satisfaction with the faces, a composite measure of job satisfaction is determined. Roznowski (1989) updated the JDI to include work atmosphere, job content and work technology. A shorter, 30-item version, was developed by Gregson (1990) based on 6 items which included work, pay, promotions, supervision and co-workers (Fields, 2002, p. 23). 
  • Global Job Satisfaction - Warr, Cook, and Wall (1979) developed this measure which includes 15 items to determine overall job satisfaction. Two subscales are used for extrinsic and intrinsic aspects of the job. The extrinsic section has eight items and the intrinsic has seven items (Fields, 2002, p. 27).
  • Job Satisfaction Relative to Expectations - Bacharach, Bamberger, and Conley (1991) developed this measure. It assesses the degree “of agreement between the perceived quality of broad aspects of a job and employee expectations” (Fields, 2002, p. 6). It is most effective to determine how job stresses, role conflicts, or role ambiguities can hinder an employee from meeting job expectations (Fields, 2002, p. 6). 
  • Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire - The long form of this survey is made up of 100 questions based on 20 sub scales which measure satisfaction with “ability, utilization, achievement, activity, advancement, authority, company policies and practices, compensation, co-workers, creativity, independence, moral values, recognition, responsibility, security, social service, social status, supervision-human relations, supervision-technical variety, and working conditions” (Fields, 2002, p. 7). There is a short version of the MSQ which consists of 20 items. This can also be separated into two subscales for intrinsic and extrinsic satisfaction.
  • Job in General Scale - This measure was developed by Ironson, Smith, Brannick, Gibson, and Paul (1989). It consists of 18 items which describe global job satisfaction and can be used in conjunction with the JDI, which assesses satisfaction with five job facets. This was developed to “assess global satisfaction independent from satisfaction with facets” (Fields, 2002, p. 9).
  • Job Satisfaction Survey - This was developed by Spector (1985) and contains 36 items based on nine job facets. The job facets include pay, promotion, supervision, benefits, contingent rewards, operating procedures, co-workers, nature of work and communication. When it was initially developed, it was specific to job satisfaction in human service, nonprofit and public organizations (Fields, 2002, p. 14).
  • Job Satisfaction Index - Schriescheim and Tsue, (1980) developed this measure. It consists of six items that form and index which determines overall job satisfaction. The items are the work, supervision, co-workers, pay, promotion opportunities, and the job in general (Fields, 2002, p. 16).
  • Job Diagnostic Survey - Hackman and Oldham (1974) developed this survey which measures both overall and specific facets of job satisfaction. There are three dimensions of overall job satisfaction which includes general satisfaction, internal work motivation, and growth satisfaction, which are combined into a single measure. The facets which are measured on the survey include security, compensation, co-workers, and supervision (Fields, 2002, p. 20).
  • Career Satisfaction - Greenhaus, Parasuraman, and Wormley (1990) developed this measure. This is a measure of career success, as opposed to job satisfaction. It assesses general satisfaction with career outcome, but also satisfaction with career progress (Fields, 2002, p. 29).

Fields outlines specific types of employee satisfaction measures which describe an employee’s satisfaction with one or more aspects of their job. These include the following (Fields, 2002):

  • Employee Satisfaction with Influence and Ownership developed by Rosen, Klein, and Young (1986).
  • Satisfaction with Work Schedule Flexibility developed by Rothausen (1994).
  • Satisfaction with My Supervisor developed by Scarpello and Vandenberg (1987).

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Research on Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is the most frequently studied variable in organizational behavior (Spector, 1997). Research on job satisfaction is performed through various methods, including interviews, observation, and questionnaires. The questionnaire is the most frequently used research method because it is unrestrained in nature. Researchers can use an existing assessment tool, or scale, as a means of assessment. Using an existing scale provides the researcher with a valid, reliable, and consistent construct when assessing job satisfaction. Job satisfaction can be assessed using a general scale, facet satisfaction scale or global satisfaction scale. The Jobs Descriptive Index (JDI) is the most popular job satisfaction assessment tool with researchers (Spector, 1997). The JDI is broken down into five faucets of satisfaction: work, pay, promotion, supervision, and coworkers.

The most significant research study that shows the importance of job satisfaction is the Hawthorne studies (Muchinsky, 1985). The purpose of the study was to research the relationship between lighting and efficiency. The experiment was conducted in 1924 by researches from Western Electric and Harvard University at the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company. Various sets of lights, at various intensities, were set up in rooms where electrical equipment was being produced. The amount of illumination, (bright, dim, or a combination) provided to the workers, seemed to have no effect on production. The results of the study were so unexpected that further investigation revealed many previously unknown aspects of human behavior in the workplace. Researchers learned that factors other than lighting effect worker's productivity. The workers responded positively to the attention they were receiving from the researchers and as a result, productivity rose. Job performance continued to improve because of the novelty of the situation; when the novelty wore off, production returned to its earlier level. Research has offered little support that a happy employee is productive; in fact, research suggests that causality may flow in the opposite direction from productivity to satisfaction (Bassett, 1994).

Research on this theory supports that job satisfaction is an important factor not only for employees but for organizations as well.  For example, in a research survey by Grant, Fried, and Juillerat (2010) at a large bank, managers found that bank tellers were very dissatisfied with their jobs, stating that they were "just glorified clerks". They also said that their jobs were boring and that they felt micromanaged because they were unable to make decisions, even small ones, without the approval of their managers. In this case, the managers of the bank decided to re-design the teller jobs to increase job satisfaction.  New tasks were added to provide variety and the use of a broad range of skills.  In addition to their check cashing, deposit and loan payment tasks, they were trained to handle commercial and traveler's checks and post payments on line. The tellers were also given more autonomy in their roles; they were given decision-making responsibilities. Finally, when feedback time approached, the managers felt that by re-designing the role of the teller they were giving the tellers responsibility for their own customers. In this particular case, it was found that job satisfaction had increased. A survey was taken six months later and it was found that not only were the tellers more satisfied with their role but they were also more committed to the organization. Finally, during employee/manager evaluations, it was found that there was an increase in performance by the tellers and that the job satisfaction provided by the job redesign had effects lasting at least four years (Grant, Fried, & Juillerat, 2010).

According to another study by Syptak, Marsland, and Ulmer (1999) satisfied employees tend to be more productive, creative and committed to their employers. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between staff satisfaction and patient satisfaction. In the case of the physician's office, the study found that not only were the employees and patients more satisfied, the physicians found an increased level of job satisfaction as well. The study conducted in the physician's office was based on Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory. Hygiene factors are related to the work environment and include: company policies, supervision, salary, interpersonal relations and working conditions. Motivators factors are related to the job and make employees want to succeed and include: achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility and advancement.  According to Herzberg, once the hygiene issues are addressed, the motivators promote job satisfaction and encourage production. In applying Herzberg's theory to the real life physicians practice, the study first addressed the hygiene factors "because these are important to creating an environment which employee satisfaction and motivation are even possible” (Syptak, Marsland, & Ulmer, 1999). The study discussed in detail each aspect of the hygiene factors and how the physicians could apply these factors to create an environment that promoted job satisfaction.  The study then moved on to the motivators and again discussed in detail the aspects of each factor. Finally, "by creating an environment that promotes job satisfaction, you are developing employees who are motivated, productive and fulfilled” (Syptak, Marsland, & Ulmer, 1999). The image below provides a visual between the differences in motivators and de-motivators in job satisfaction.

Figure 6. Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory (Herzberg, 1968; Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959).

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Correlation versus Causation

While one may wish to understand which variables increase or decrease job satisfaction, it is important to remember that correlation is not equivalent to causation (Steinberg, 2008). Research has shown that there is a correlation between job satisfaction and performance, turnover, and absenteeism. A correlation indicates that there is a relationship between these variables; however, it does not explain "which variable, if either, caused the relationship" (Steinberg, 2008, p. 419). It is entirely possible that an outside variable is responsible for the correlation (Steinberg, 2008). For example, job satisfaction and job performance are positively correlated (when job satisfaction increases, job performance increases). However, for one person, satisfaction may increase because performance increases, whereas, for another, performance may increase because satisfaction increases. It is impossible to tell whether job satisfaction causes increased job performance or that job performance causes increased job satisfaction based on correlation alone.  

The following is a list of alternative explanations of a correlation (Pearson, 2010):

  • Reverse causation - The causal direction is opposite what has been hypothesized; e.g., job performance causes an increase in job satisfaction rather than the other way around.
  • Reciprocal causation -The two variables cause each other; e.g. high job satisfaction causes high job performance which then increases job satisfaction.
  • Common-causal variables -Variables not part of the research hypothesis cause both the predictor and the outcome variable; e.g. individual disposition may cause both satisfaction and job performance.
  • Spurious relationship -The common-causal variable produces and “explains away” the relationship between the predictor and outcome variables; e.g., individual differences in disposition as described above.
  • Extraneous variables -Variables other than the predictor causes the outcome variable, but do not cause the predictor variable; e.g., pressure from a supervisor causes high performance.
  • Mediating variables -Variables caused by the predictor variable in turn cause the outcome variable; e.g. experience could cause high performance which then could cause satisfaction (performance would be the mediating variable).


Figure 4.   Job satisfaction correlation ( Iaffaldano & Muchinsky, 1985; Johns, 1997; Carsten & Spector, 1987).

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Experimental Research on Job Satisfaction

 Even though job satisfaction is highly researched, only a few studies have conducted experiments in this area. Experimental research is very valuable for explaining the causation of the existing relationship between variables, while correlational studies only point out that these relationships exist and describe them.

 Brief, Butcher, and Roberson (1995) conducted a field experiment with 57 hospital workers in order to examine how social information and disposition affect job satisfaction. The researchers tested three hypotheses; the first one was that negative affectivity (NA) is associated negatively with job satisfaction. The second one was that positive mood inducing events increase job satisfaction; and the last one was that the effects of positive events on job satisfaction are weaker among high NA individuals than they are among low NA individuals as a result of interaction of NA and positive mood inducing events (Brief et al., 1995). The subjects of this study were randomly assigned to two groups. The experimental group received positive mood-inducing incentives; they received cookies, soft drinks and attractively wrapped toys. The control group did not receive any incentives. Both groups filled out the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (TMAS) that measured NA and questionnaires that measured job satisfaction (a modified version of Kunin’s Faces scale). The results demonstrated that a disposition to NA is negatively associated with job satisfaction. The next findings indicated that positive mood-induced events increased job satisfaction. The last results showed that the individuals with high NA are resistant to positive mood-induced events. All these results were consistent with the hypotheses.

 This study supplements the knowledge of job satisfaction by providing valuable information about how social information processing (mood inducing events) and dispositional characteristics (NA as a personality trait) affect job satisfaction. The information provided by this research might be utilized by managers in personnel hiring process and to boost job satisfaction. The managers might use the instruments that measure NA and PA (positive affectivity) in order to predict job satisfaction among employees. In addition, they may introduce positive mood-inducing events in the form of incentives that would lead to increased job satisfaction.


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The Consequences of Job Dissatisfaction

According to the exit- voice- loyalty- neglect- framework (Farrell, 1983), employees’ response to dissatisfaction with the workplace can take four forms, each of which differs from the others on two dimensions: active vs. passive and constructive vs. destructive. The four responses are:

  1. Exit: exit refers to behavior aimed at leaving the company, such as looking for a new job. Exit is destructive and active response.
  2. Voice: voice refers to employ initiative to improve conditions at the organizations, for example, offering ideas on who to improve the business. Voice is an active and constructive response.
  3. Loyalty: loyalty refers an employee’s attitude of trust toward the organization. It can manifest itself as a passive but optimistic hope for improvements to come about. Loyalty is a passive but constructive.
  4. Neglect: neglect occurs when an employee shows absenteeism, shows up late to work, and expends less effort at work. By performing inadequately at work, the employee is allowing conditions to deteriorate. Neglect is passive and destructive.

So far we have only been focusing on Job Satisfaction but what about those who become dissatisfied? Only 30% of Americans enjoy their job, which leads us to believe that nearly 70% of working Americans do not enjoy their job (Notte 2013). Not only is satisfaction important in running a happy and productive work place but also job dissatisfaction can cost the company. For example unhappy workers that call in sick and find ways to avoid working cost U.S. companies $450 billion to $550 billion every year (Notte 2013). It is especially important for companies to not lose money due to their employees; experiencing a loss due to employee neglect is a tremendous cost. Companies must better employ strategies and techniques listed above in order to increase over all job satisfaction and revenue in the company.  Currently nearly half of American employees are disengaged with their work causing them to not perform at their best. In order for companies to work the best they must have employees who are working their best; business must change and adapt their business to the employees in order to improve job satisfaction.

Cognitive belief about work is not a fixed emotion, it can constantly be altered and influenced by current happenings in and out of the company which cause feelings change for better or worse. Job productivity as well as many other important aspects to a happy work environment has been proven to work better with more satisfied workers. Changes in the structure of American business must significantly improve to increase the satisfaction of employees.

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Research on the Consequences of Job Dissatisfaction

Researchers Henne & Locke (1985) designed a model  that illustrates what they hypothesize happens to individuals who are dissatisfied with their jobs. When job dissatisfaction strikes it is merely an emotional state; in response to the emotional state people will devise an alternative plan that is dependent upon the individual, his estimation of the situation and his own capabilities or aspirations. The alternative plan (see diagram above) will be behavioral or psychological (Henne & Locke, 1985).   

  (Henne & Locke, 1985)

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Action Alternatives  

  • Performance - It’s almost intuitive to conclude that people who are dissatisfied don’t perform as well as people who are satisfied with their job.  However this isn’t always the case; discontent can trigger a change for people to come up with creative solutions to problems (Zhou & George, 2001). If a person is dissatisfied they may perform better to rectify the situation, so performance level may be high or low depending on the individual.
  • Protest - Another form of action an unhappy worker may use is the protest. One form of protest is unionization. People tend to join unions for a number of reasons, including support if there is a problem at work and improved pay and conditions (Wadditigton & Whitston, 1997). Protests are usually an attempt to change the cause of the unhappiness (Henne & Locke, 1985).
  • Withdrawal - Absenteeism and/or leaving the job is another recourse a worker may take when they become dissatisfied in the workplace.  

Psychological Alternatives  

  • Change perception – People can choose to change their outlooks and views on life. They can decide instead of focusing on the things at the job that are dissatisfying they would focus on things about the job that they enjoy.
  • Change values – Most companies have a mission statement or a group of core values. If there is a conflict between personal values and company values a person can change their values so they are  more in line with the company’s values to alleviate dissatisfaction.
  • Change reaction – Another alternative an individual might have when experiencing dissatisfaction would be to avoid it using psychological defense mechanisms such as repression and evasion (Henne & Locke, 1985). He or she may choose to avoid aspects of the job they are unhappy with, or he or she may suppress their unhappiness.
  • Toleration – Others may simply tolerate their displeasure. They may reason that they derive happiness from other sources in their life so they can put up with displeasure at work (Henne & Locke, 1985). 

Consequences of Choices  

  • Life Satisfaction – Henne & Locke (1985) believed that work is a component of a person’s life and will affect one’s attitude towards life as a whole. 
  • Mental Health – Locke (1976) suggest that the existence of dissatisfaction implies conflict in the employee's mind and the conflict may lead to issues.
  • Physical Health - If the dissatisfaction event increases stress levels in an individual there may be a relationship tied to health (Henne & Locke, 1985).




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