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Job Satisfaction Case Example

Overview / Introduction


Dilbert ©2012, Universal Uclick

What is it that you like about your job? What is it that makes you hate your job? These are questions that many of us could easily spout out answers to. Whether it’s your dream job, or something to just temporarily get you by, job satisfaction is a very important aspect to work and your attitude towards work. So what is job satisfaction?

"Job satisfaction refers to the degree of pleasure or positive affect that an employee has toward his/her job (Locke, 1976 as cited in PSU WC, 2012, pg. 3)." This involves behavior, cognitive and evaluative aspects. First let’s look at behavior. Behavior refers to how a person acts in reference to their job, are you punctual, do you meet deadlines, etc.? Evaluative refers to the liking or disliking of a job. For example, I hate the job that I have. And finally cognitive refers to the beliefs about the job.  For example, I like being a police officer even though it’s often dangerous.  Because people are feelings oriented, they develop feelings about their job.  I/O psychologists have broken these feelings into two areas: global job satisfaction (e.g., "Overall, I love my job.") and job facet satisfaction (e.g., "While overall I love my job, I don't like the hours.") (PSU, 2012, Locke, 1976).

What makes people feel negatively about their jobs?  Well, there are several reasons for this:

  1. Job characteristics – This can incorporate a many facets of the job ranging from salary, autonomy, to skill and task variety. If a person is getting what they want from their job, they tend to be satisfied with their job. Conversely, if they are not getting what they want, they may become bored. For example, if a task is too easy or too monotonous, a person may be more likely to dislike their job. Whereas if they job is challenging and gives them the opportunity to utilize their skills, they may like their job.
  2. Social Comparisons – Ever hear the quote, “one bad apple spoils the bunch?” This same principle can be applied to the workplace. If one person is negative, it can reflect and have an impact on the entire group.
  3. Disposition – This refers to one’s on thoughts on the job without the influence of social influences and/or the nature of the job. People have an affective disposition that is related to job satisfaction. Those with a negative affectivity have negative emotions such as anger, depression, etc... Those with a positive affectivity are active, enthusiastic and are optimistic about work and it's outcomes (PSU WC, 2012).  

There are various aspects that make a person satisfied with their work. Below are some of the effects of a satisfied employee:

  1. Performance – Who doesn’t like doing something they are good at? For example, let’s say you sell cars. You do well, your customer’s are satisfied with their purchase, and your ranked number one at the dealership averaging 30-40 car sales per week. You’re receiving appropriate compensation for your sales and thus you continue to perform at a high level. Overall, your performance directly affects your positive work attitude.
  2. Absenteeism – People who enjoy their job, are less likely to be tardy or miss work with unexcused absences. If a person likes what they do they are motivated to attend even when they are a bit under the weather. On the other hand, if a person dislikes their job they may skip work for the slightest of reason.
  3. Turnover – How often do people quit something they enjoy? I think we can agree, not very often. If there are other jobs available, people often look for an “out” to find “more enjoyable” work. However, if you like what you do, the chances of that are much lower (PSU WC, 2012).

To understand this further, below is an example that demonstrates how the Job Satisfaction Theory works.  We will look at Sara and how she was satisfied with her job; but with a turn of events, became quickly unsatisfied and is now contemplating looking for a new job.

Details of Case  

Sara is an employee of a major financial institution, who has worked in a call center as a fraud analyst. Sara did like her position, was pleased with her benefits, and happy with her managers and co-workers. The job itself was not ideal for Sara but, because all the other aspects of the job filled her needs, she considered this a good job. Sara was recently notified that a schedule optimization was taking place at the beginning of January. Each employee was to choose three of several potentially available schedules and would then be awarded their schedule choices based on seniority. Sara has been employed with the company for two years, which is not a bad ranking considering nine new training classes that have taken place since then.

A year ago, Sara went through some personal problems and needed to make sure her schedule ended by 5:30pm. She could work any day and start at any time; the only necessary specification was her end time because she needed to be able to pick up her children from their daycare center by 6:00 pm. The only way she could get this shift was if she agreed to work every Saturday and Sunday. This was a significant compromise because the employees all complained about working weekends. However, Sara agreed to it and honestly didn't mind working the weekends because she was getting what she needed.

When Sara chose three of the potential schedules offered for the upcoming optimization, she was told all of those options were full. She then chose four more options but was denied those as well. Sara was given an end time of 10:00pm which is not possible for her because of her having two small children and no one to watch them while she worked except for daycare. She voiced her problem to her manager, but the manager told her that was the best they could do.

The position that Sara has been put in has created a huge amount of stress, which in turn is making her feel bitter at work, highly unmotivated, and very edgy. She does not want to work for an employer who is completely unconcerned with the needs of her, her family and the stability of her happiness. Since Sara was given this news, she goes into work not caring about the quality of her work. She knows her attitude is awful, and she feels helpless. Most recently Sara had an emotional breakdown at work, and her manager gave her what she believes to be false hope by telling her that maybe he can see about other options. She does not believe him and does not think he has her best interests in mind. Sara believes he is just trying to keep her doing her job until the new schedule takes place, or she quits.

Sara's job is an hourly paying job plus an incentive based upon performance. Each month she exceeds in her stats and receives a top paying performance bonus. Sara is trying to understand why her employer won't fight for her. She can not understand why an employer would not want to make their employees happy and therefore productive.  

Resolving the Issue

When Sara was hired for her job two years ago, she liked her position, was pleased with the benefits it offered, and enjoyed working with the managers and other employees. According to the job characteristics approach to job satisfaction, these characteristics led to Sara’s feeling of overall job satisfaction. When she suddenly needed to have her schedule modified due to the changing needs of her family, the company worked with her to come up with a fair solution. Because she was happy and her needs were being met, she performed quite well on the job and received additional payment incentives. Sara, therefore, remained loyal to the company and continued to perform exceedingly well. She was experiencing job facet satisfaction. Was she performing well because she was satisfied with her job, receiving rewarding incentives, or was it due to some other unknown factor (PSU WC, 2012)? 

The relationship between Sara and the company had always been reciprocal, so when the scheduling optimization was announced, she remained hopeful. Because the new schedules were to be awarded on the basis of seniority, she assumed her loyalty to the company would pay off. However, she was denied seven potential schedules and ultimately given a schedule that was impossible for her to work due to the current needs of her family.  When Sara spoke to her manager, he was insensitive to her situation. Due to these new circumstances, Sara has become a stressed-out, unmotivated employee. The quality of her work has deteriorated, her attitude is poor, and she feels like she’s being misled. While the overall characteristics of the job have remained the same (i.e., benefits and rewards, coworkers), the inflexibility of her new schedule and the insensitivity of her manager have caused Sara to become an unhappy, unsatisfied employee. Clearly, there was a correlation between this employee’s job satisfaction and level of performance (PSU WC, 2012).

This issue not only presents issues for Sara, but the organization's lack of flexibility has the potential to effect other employee's job satisfaction as well. Sara's discontent with her supervisor's response to her plea has deteriorated her job satisfaction and attitude towards the organization. Her negative attitude can have an effect on social comparisons within the organization-- not with senior employees who's job satisfaction was unaffected by the optimization, but the socialization of new employees could be impacted by Sara's negative attitude towards her supervisor and the organization. This socialization could result in higher turnover rates, costing the organization through increased recruiting and retention expenses. Hopefully it is not too late for Sara's supervisor to work out a compromise with Sara in order to retain her and have her return to the productive employee she once was (PSU WC, 2012).

Sara and the Company have a difficult task.  Part of the problem that exists is job satisfaction is different for each individual.  One employee may be satisfied by the wage they earn and subsequent employees may only be satisfied by working a particular shift.  Research which has shown that the relationship between job satisfaction and performance are not all that strong.  In today's economy where corporations look to earn a profit they often invest their assets where they get the most out of their investments.  They may choose to invest in training which they can control as opposed to searching for means to satisfy each individual employee.  Most corporations will not alienate the majority of their employees to satisfy one.  There are many possible solutions such as flextime or onsite daycare may be applicable.  There is going to have to be compromise, and unfortunately the employee is limited to the willingness or ability to come to a solution (PSU WC, 2012).      

By working with Sara to satisfy her work-life needs, the organization will be able to retain an employee who has proven to be productive. Flexible schedules are compensatory tools used in place of of increased salary to retain employees. Work-life balance creates job satisfaction and positive work attitudes resulting in increased performance and reduced turnover and absenteeism, improving the organizational success (PSU WC, 2012).


While the outcome of this situation is yet to be resolved, it is clear that Sara was very satisfied with her job. The characteristics of the job weren't ideal, but overall the benefits and incentives were meeting her needs (e.g., financial, work relationships, family). She enjoyed her work environment and had good relationships with her manager and co-workers in the social comparisons application. It also seems that Sara has a positive disposition about life and her work.  Because of these things, she was satisfied, happy and performing well on her job. Therefore, she had job facet satisfaction (PSU WC, 2012). 

As events unfolded regarding her schedule, she became stressed, overwhelmed and unsatisfied. She didn't feel supported by her management or the organization. According to the main wiki on Job Satisfaction, in the study published by The Families and Work Institute, together workplace support and job quality influences job satisfaction by 70%, with earning and benefits having only 2% impact. Because Sara wasn't getting the support she needed from her manager, her satisfaction decreased significantly.  Her performance declined because of these feelings and attitudes. She is unsure how to move forward and has been entertaining thoughts of quitting to find a more suitable job that will meet her needs. This is an example of the affects of job dissatisfaction where turnover is slightly correlated (.24) with satisfaction (PSU WC, 2012, Employee Retention Headquarters, n.d.).

In order for Sara to become satisfied with her job, things have to change. The most important factor is that management work with her to come up with a solution that enables her to meet her family needs with a workable schedule. If this can be done, most likely Sara will be able to, once again, have job satisfaction. 


Employee Retention Headquarters. (n.d.). Attracting, retaining and motivating employees: The realities and options. Retrieved from

Adams, S. (2007, May 6). Dilbert. [Cartoon]. Retrieved from

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2012). PSYCH 484, Lesson 11: Job Satisfaction: Do I like my job? Retrieved from

Redmond, B.F. (2012) Job Satisfaction. WikiSpaces - PSYCH 484: Work Attitudes and Job Motivation. Retrieved from

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