Introduction to Theory
Oftentimes, when an individual starts to feel complacent or stagnant, they will do a self-inventory. They will look at different areas of their lives such as their community, their house, their family life, and their feelings about faith. One of the most common questions they will ask themselves is, “Do I like my job?” Interestingly, the answer is not always as clear as one would think. Job satisfaction is one of the most widely studied areas in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology. It refers to the degree of pleasure or positive views that an employee has towards his or her job (Locke, 1976). Job satisfaction is made up of evaluative, cognitive, and behavioral components. The evaluative component has to do with whether or not you like your job, the cognitive component deals with your beliefs about the job and the behavioral component deals with how you are most likely to act towards your job based on a predisposition (The Pennsylvania State University World Campus Psych 484, L11, 2015). Job satisfaction can be broken down into “global job satisfaction” which looks at the job as a generalization, whereas “job facet satisfaction” looks at one’s satisfaction within certain aspects of their job. A person may like their job overall (global job satisfaction) but dislike certain parts of their job such as the hours or the location in which they work (job facet satisfaction) (The Pennsylvania State University World Campus Psych 484, L11, 2015).
While many people can measure job satisfaction in terms of wages and salary, that is not always the case. The following case shows that money is not everything and often doing something that makes us happy is much more important than what we receive via direct deposit in our bank accounts.
Samantha was a Customer Support Manager for a dental manufacturer. Her first year working for the company was from the head office located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She moved to the United States, and was asked by the company to shift her position to one of telecommuting – working from home.
Being an extrovert, it was difficult at first to get self-motivated and to no longer have the personal connection face-to-face with her coworkers, but eventually she found her rhythm and was able to adjust.
Although Samantha felt extremely grateful to have a job, she was not very happy working for the company after a few years working remotely. The work was repetitive, and she never felt that she made a real difference, nor did she have any opportunity to advance in the company. After seven years, the company had massive layoffs, and Samantha was one of the affected employees. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Samantha was fortunate to find work with a property management company as a Leasing Consultant. This new position required several adjustments on Samantha’s part. She had to set her alarm clock each morning, drive a short commute, and interact with different people every day.
Her days were filled with new information, new problems to solve, and best of all she easily found herself under the wings of her coworkers who so humbly accepted her into their little “work family.” All of these positive things that her new job provided her with enriched her life so much that it made up for the fact that the pay was only half of her previous salary.
Whether a new relationship, or a new job, a “honeymoon” period exists right at the beginning. Samantha realized that could very well be the case with her new job. However, she quickly saw the potential with the property management company. The owners explained to her during the interview process that they hire from within, and that many of the corporate leaders started in the position of Leasing Consultant. Samantha confidently reported that she not only was she satisfied with her new job; she was happy.
For every employee, there are different expectations and needs to be met for the individual to report job satisfaction. In Samantha’s situation, working at home was unsatisfying, as interacting with other people was important to her. Yet for others, not having to commute or deal directly with customers is a dream job! Many different factors come into play when one assesses job satisfaction. Three common approaches to job satisfaction have been researched:(The Pennsylvania State University World Campus, Psych 484: L11, 2015).
Job characteristics that have been linked to satisfaction include core characteristics such as skill variety, task identity and autonomy, but also working conditions, stress, workload, and social relationships (The Pennsylvania State University World Campus, Psych 484: L11, 2015). Samantha’s job with the dental manufacturer contained many repetitive tasks. She lacked personal interaction with co-workers as she was isolated in her home office. Both of these factors contributed to her dissatisfaction. As a leasing consultant, she faced new challenges each day and she could exercise her social skills with the numerous people she encountered. Her new job provided a much more satisfying job experience.
One employee with a poor attitude or outlook can create a miserable work experience for their colleagues. Social information processing is the process whereby an employee uses the attitudes of their co-workers to shape their own opinions of the work environment (The Pennsylvania State University Psych 484 Confluence Wiki, 11, 2015). In Samantha’s prior job, there was no social interaction with other employees so there was no way for her to know how others in her situation felt. In her new job, she was able to interact with her coworkers on a daily basis. They welcomed her and made her feel like family. Research has shown that in ambiguous situations (such as a new job), an individual’s job satisfaction correlates to the social cues they receive from co-workers and supervisors (Schnake & Dumler, 1987). Samantha’s positive co-worker experiences increased her reported satisfaction.
Some individuals will always report low job satisfaction regardless of their job duties or the attitudes of their colleagues. An individual’s disposition plays an important part. Those that have a positive disposition are more enthusiastic, active and have a positive outlook on life. They are typically more satisfied in their jobs than those with a negative disposition. Even though Samantha had a positive disposition, she was still unsatisfied in her prior job. This may be because her positive disposition did not fit with the culture of the dental manufacturing company and her duties there, causing her lower satisfaction.
In sharing her extroverted nature as well as expressing joy over being accepted by her co-workers, Samantha showed that positive social interaction is a job characteristic that would provide her with high job satisfaction. Research indicates that a correlation between job satisfaction and job performance exists but is extremely weak. There is also evidence that supports the idea that interpersonal relationships at work, also known as team member exchange (TMX), yield a higher commitment to the group and that organizational commitment does lead to increased performance (Liden, Wayne, & Sparrowe, 2000). We can then expect that job satisfaction would have a positive relationship with job performance. Further research would be needed to confirm this.
Regardless of the honeymoon period with any new job, there are many factors that go into job satisfaction. For Samantha, job characteristics, social information, and disposition were important factors in her satisfaction. Fortunately, her new job seemed to address her requirements. The alternative would likely have created an entirely different outcome. What if Samantha’s co-workers treated her badly? What if they did not want any new hires and were rude and unwelcoming? How would Samantha have felt about her new job? What if her co-workers liked Samantha and wanted to bring her under their wings to bolster a coalition against the current company? If they were unsatisfied with the company and the job, how would that have influenced Samantha? We can conclude that her cognitive comments about “new information and new problems to solve” indicate that she valued a challenging environment. We believe that her job satisfaction would diminish should she experience negative social information, but her global job satisfaction including her daily tasks and duties would outweigh the negative.
Liden, R. C., Wayne, S. J., & Sparrowe, R. T. (2000). An Examination of the Mediating Role of Psychological Empowerment on the Relations Between the Job, Interpersonal Relationships, and Work Outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 407-416.
Locke, E. A. (1976). The nature and causes of job satisfaction. In M. D. Dunette, Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 1297-1349). Chicago: Rand McNally.
Schnake, M. E., & Dumler, M. P. (1987). The Social Information Processing Model of Task Design: Conflicting cues and individual differences. Group & Organizational Studies, 221-240.
The Pennsylvania State University Psych 484 Confluence Wiki, 11. (2015). 11. Job Satisfaction. Retrieved from PSYCH 484: Work Attitudes and Job Motivation: https://wikispaces.psu.edu/display/PSYCH484/11.+Job+Satisfaction
The Pennsylvania State University World Campus Psych 484, L11. (2015). Lesson 11: Job Satisfaction: Do I like my job? Retrieved from PSYCH484: Work Attitudes and Motivation: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa15/psych484/001/content/lesson11/lesson11_03.html