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  • Fall 2013 Job Satisfaction Case Study
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There are many theories and models dealing with job attitudes. One of the most researched job attitudes is job satisfaction. It refers to positive viewpoints people hold toward their jobs. Job satisfaction has three important areas: evaluative, cognitive, and behavioral. Evaluative refers to how an employee feels about the job (whether he/she likes it or not). Cognitive refers to what an employee believes about the job (whether he/she thinks the job is boring, demanding, or interesting). Behavioral, which is influenced by the first two, is how an employee acts at the workplace (if an employee likes the job and thinks it is interesting, he/she will work harder than if he/she thinks the job is boring). Job satisfaction can also be global, which refers to how an employee feels about the job in general. It can also be facet which refers to how an employee feels about specific aspects of the job. If an employee is satisfied with most aspects of the job, he/she will be generally satisfied with his/her job, even though he/she might dislike some aspects of it (PSU WC, L11, p. 3).
Employees who are satisfied with their jobs are crucial to efficiency, productivity, and high quality of goods and services companies provide. Much research has been conducted on the topic of job satisfaction because the overall functioning of organizations often depends on job satisfaction of the employees: the better the employees feel about all aspects of their jobs, the more cohesive and harmonious the workplace atmosphere and the more willing and motivated to perform at the highest level the employees will be. It is in the best interest of every organization to assess, evaluate, and improve their employees' job satisfaction, whether through various strategies of job enrichment, sound and well-thought-out policies, or attractive incentives (Celik, 2011)

Case Details

Megan has been a Production Coordinator for All About Jazz Dance Competitions company for three years. She really enjoys her job responsibilities, likes her co-workers, and feels that her salary is fair. She especially likes the actual competitions and being on stage. Megan grew up dancing and loves to perform. She has a degree in production and minored in dance in college as well.  As production coordinator, it is her job to be on stage to present during the awards ceremonies and she lives for the spotlight. Megan has been recognized each year by her manager, and participating dance studios, for her excellent work on and off the stage. 
  One of the unique parts of Megan's job is that dance competitions have an on-season and an off-season. On-season is when the competitions actually happen and goes from January until the end of June. Since the competitions are all over the country, Megan commits to giving up three weekends per month to travel to different locations and produce the shows. Off-season is from June to December. Megan works only four days a week during off-season, but collects a full paycheck. The off-season is reserved for planning and marketing the following year's competitions. The demanding on-season schedule and the relaxed off-season schedule ultimately balance each other out. Megan has been fine with working this schedule because she enjoys what she does. She also doesn't mind giving up her weekends during the on-season because her manager has told her that if she has something important on one particular weekend, she will try to accommodate it. On-season is beginning and Megan just found out that one of her close friends just got engaged. The wedding is planned for the beginning of June. Megan tells her manager right away about the conflict, but her manager refuses to accommodate her request. Megan becomes frustrated because she rarely asks for a specific weekend off and now she will have to miss the wedding. 
 Another thing that has frustrated Megan from the beginning is how her supervisor micro-manages the team through the off-season. Her manager doesn't allow anyone the freedom to make any decisions regarding the planning. Everything has to be approved before it can be finalized. This holds up deadlines and doesn't give Megan any autonomy during the off-season. Megan has recently missed confirming contracts with two new marketing partners because she was waiting for approval. This not only affects her reputation, but it affects the amount of bonus money she would have gotten for signing new partners. Megan has also been frustrated with the lack of growth opportunities within the company. The company is small, so after working for the company for three years, she has already reached the peak of her job responsibilities. 
 Recently, Megan has contemplated looking for a new job. Although Megan loves the spotlight and physically working the shows, she has become dissatisfied with her job. Because of recent and ongoing frustrations, she is no longer motivated to go "above and beyond" on or off the stage. She has started to resent giving up her weekends for half of the year. She is fed up with her manager and the way she controls every decision, especially when it affects Megan's paycheck. Finally, Megan realizes that there are no growth opportunities and doesn't know how much longer she can continue doing the same thing over and over. 

Photo by Tomer Jacobson

Causes of Job Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction

There are several components at play when looking at what causes an individual to be satisfied or dissatisfied at work.  Some individuals could see the same job in two different lights.  A job that one may find satisfying, a co-worker may despise.  This area of I/O psychology has had a lot of research completed on it.  There are three general categories/factors to job satisfaction/dissatisfaction: job characteristics, social comparison, and disposition (PSU WC, L11, p. 4).  Below each will be discussed in more detail.
Job Characteristics
Job characteristics go beyond the five objectives in the job characteristic theory which includes skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback (Hackman, 1980).  This looks at a large assortment of factors such as: working conditions, promotional opportunities, workload, and supervision.  The most widely used method of assessment uses five dimensions: the type of work, pay, promotional opportunities, supervision, and co-workers (PSU WC, L11, p. 4).
We compare all of the aspects of a job against our expectations to determine our satisfaction.  It is the variance in expected results versus actual outcomes that determines how satisfied or dissatisfied an individual will be with their jobs.  For example, if an individual expects to move up in a company but is in a position that is at the ceiling for advancement they are not going to be satisfied with that aspect of the job.
Social Comparison
Social comparison follows the same principle as vicarious experience under the self-efficacy theory.  Basically, if an individual is surrounded by individuals who are dissatisfied with their jobs that individual is more likely to become dissatisfied with their job.  Human beings are social individuals causing peer pressure to be prevalent in the work place.  Also, work environment and co-workers are two more aspects of an individual's job that have an affect on their outlook and job satisfaction. No one likes a "Negative Nellie."  
Disposition goes back to the age-old argument of nature versus nurture.  This factor attributes an individual's personality into the mix of job satisfaction.  Steel and Rentsch (1997) expanded upon the study of Staw and Ross (1985) to show that "dispositional mechanisms" play a role in the development of job attitudes, such as job satisfaction.  This study, and many others, shows that individuals are, at least, partially inclined to either be satisfied or dissatisfied with work and life in general.  This follows the line of natural pessimists and optimists or glass half full versus half empty.
This is important to consider because it shows that some portion of job satisfaction is outside of the reach of organizations and is dependent on the personality and outlook of the individual.


Figure 1. Job Satisfaction (Tutor Dynamic)



Job Characteristics
Megan loves the type of job she is doing; she also has a good relationship with her co-workers and finds her pay adequate, most of the time. She has worked with the company for three years and doesn't feel much autonomy in her work. She continues to perform well despite her supervisor's micro-management. This lack of freedom to make decisions has resulted in Megan missing out on several bonus opportunities, as well as acquiring valuable new partners for the company. More recently, Megan became dissatisfied with her work schedule as well. She didn't mind spending most of her weekends traveling but she always assumed that if she had to take one weekend off to tend to personal business, she would be able to. The refusal of her manager to give her a weekend off for her friend's wedding contributed greatly to Megan's growing dissatisfaction with her job. Another aspect of her job that became dissatisfying is the lack of growth and promotion opportunities. Even though Megan loves what she does, she is not willing to do the same thing over and over indefinitely. Megan is considering finding a new job because she is dissatisfied with too many important aspects of her work for her current company, including supervision, promotional opportunities, autonomy, and pay. Loving the type of work alone is just not enough anymore.
Social Comparison
Many of Megan's co-workers are also frustrated with extremely tight supervision and the demanding work schedule. Megan hears people tell stories, similar to her own, about wasted opportunities due to the micro-management of the supervisor and inflexibility of the schedule. People are frustrated because the schedule is not very family friendly. For instance, during half of the year, people work almost every weekend and even in emergencies can not get the time off they need. This practice disregards the fact that many events in people's personal lives take place on weekends and essentially robs workers of time to spend with their families and friends. Hearing her co-workers complain about these issues validates Megan's own feelings and contributes to her dissatisfaction with her job.
Megan is a very cheerful, friendly, and optimistic person. She always looks for positive aspects of any situation and actively searches for solutions to problems instead of dwelling on the negative. This is partly the reason why she is a high performer at her job and always gets positive reviews of her work. However, looking at her situation objectively, Megan realizes that it might be time to utilize her knowledge and skills elsewhere. As optimistic as she is, there are just too few opportunities for professional growth within her current company.


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



While Megan may be dissatisfied currently, Megan's manager can take steps to alleviate this level of dissatisfaction felt not only by Megan but other employees as well.  All too often, managers do not take the time to assess the job satisfaction levels felt by his or her subordinates. There are three variables in regards to job satisfaction that have undergone the most research: performance, absenteeism, and turnover. By looking at these three variables, Megan's manager can get a better understanding of what is at stake.  
Management tends to look at the end result, i.e. productivity, and associate the level of production with an assumed level of satisfaction.  This correlates to the myth of "a happy worker is a productive worker" (PSU WC, L. 11, p. 5). Megan's manager may not know the full extent of the workers' dissatisfaction.  Instead, she may only see that the work is still being done and assume everything is alright.  In this instance, either the manager will notice Megan's dissatisfaction, when it is too late, after she has resigned or when Megan's dissatisfaction spills over into her work. For example, Megan may not work as hard as in previous seasons because she believes there is no point. She may feel that performance does not correspond to the outcome.  However, she may have a minimum amount of work that is required to get done in order to remain employed. In this case, especially if Megan was unable to find a job elsewhere, she would be forced to still maintain production levels despite her level of dissatisfaction.
Many managers would also assume that absenteeism would be significantly higher for workers who are unhappy. However, research actually shows a much lower correlation than what was originally assumed. A meta-analysis study by Hackett and Guion showed that little to no correlation exists between job satisfaction and absenteeism (Hackett & Guion, 1985).  It cannot be proven that if a worker is dissatisfied he or she will be absent from work. The reverse can be said as well that if a worker was absent then he or she must be dissatisfied. Workers may miss work due to factors outside of their control. This does not mean that one can assume that the worker is unhappy or lazy because of that. In the case study, Megan seems to have very little absences. This may fool Megan's manager into believing that everything is fine.  
The likelihood of Megan leaving the company to seek employment elsewhere is high. As Megan and many of her coworkers have experienced job trajectory dissatisfaction, research shows that that they will probably begin to seek employment with a different corporation ( Liu, Mitchell, Lee, Holtom & Hinkin, 2012). The availability of jobs elsewhere, which candidates are qualified for, will also affect whether subordinates will stay with a company or attempt to find employment elsewhere. Megan has already started to look at other companies for a new job. It is possible that other dissatisfied employees have started looking as well. If the manager does not realize that there is a problem, and doesn't work to remedy it, she will risk losing valuable workers.
In conclusion, it may be necessary for Megan to tell her manager that she is dissatisfied in order to seek resolution. This way, the manager knows exactly what is wrong and can work to make improvements. If Megan doesn't speak up, the manager may never realize that there is a problem and will not be able to correct it. Megan is an exceptional worker, and what she and the other employees are asking for is not unreasonable. It would be unwise to ignore the situation any longer as the company would lose a valuable worker should Megan decide to quit her position. 



Celik, M. (2011). A Theoretical Approach to the Job Satisfaction. Polish Journal of Management Studies. Czestochowa University of Technology. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from$1&qt=IN_PAG

Field, J. (2008). Job Satisfaction Model. Retrieved from

Hackett, R., & Guion, R. (1985). A reevaluation of the absenteeism-job satisfaction relationship.Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes35(3), 340-381. Retrieved from

Hackman, J. R. (1980).  Work Redesign and Motivation.  Professional Psychology, 11(3), 445-455.

Jacobson, T. (2011, June 6). Dancer - A Shoot Anatomy | [Dancer photo]. Original photo altered by Novack, D. (2013, November 8). Retrieved November 8, 2013, from

Liu, D., Mitchell, T., Lee, T., Holtom, B., & Hinkin, T. (2012). When employees are out of step with coworkers: How job satisfaction trajectory and dispersion influence individual- and unit-level voluntary turnover. Academy of Management Journal55(6), 1360-1380. Retrieved from

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2013).  Lesson 11: Job Satisfaction: Do I like my job?.  Retrieved from

Steel, R. P., & Rentsch, J. R. (1997).  The Dispositional Model of Job Attitudes Revisited: Findings of a 10-Year Study.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(6), 873-879. [Image]. (2010). Retrieved  November 6, 2013 from

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