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  • Fall 2016, Job Satisfaction Case Study
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Job satisfaction can be explained in many different ways. Simply put, it is how content someone is at their job. According to our lesson job satisfaction has evaluative (Do I like my job?), cognitive (What do I think of the work I do?) and behavioral components, which deals with what a person is predisposed to do in different situations (PSU WC, L.11, p.1). Most adults spend most of their waking hours at their jobs. Considering that the average person spends more time working than they do at home, it may be concluded that a person’s job can influence many aspects of their life. It can play a big part of your identity.  Some employees cannot stand their job and others find great joy in what they do. Stress, workload, company culture, environment, co-workers, autonomy, disposition, flexibility and many other factors can contribute to job satisfaction. The general contention is that a happy employee is more likely to perform better, show up on time and hold more longevity. Conversely, a not so happy employee may have no motivation, bad attendance, and more likely to quit at any time, thus making that employee unreliable. Of course there are exceptions to the rule and job satisfaction is not always linked to better performance. Some of the more influential categories of factors to job satisfaction we will highlight in this essay are job characteristics, social comparison, and disposition (PSU WC, L.11, p.3). Because the workplace can be a dynamic environment there a many variables that job satisfaction can be linked to as well. We will touch upon variables such as performance, absenteeism, and turnover. Whether the job is inherently meaningful or not is not necessarily the catalyst to job satisfaction. It is the amount of significance you put towards what you do no matter the operation is what gives it substance.

Details of Case

Riley accepted an administrative assistant position at a local high school two months ago. She is assigned to assist the head principal of the school. Her core responsibilities include filing, student data entry, and processing tuition payments. The hourly pay is not what she had hoped for but she will receive a performance review in 90 days that may allow for a pay increase per her performance rating. The position she filled had been vacant for an extended period of time, which left many administrative duties undone. She is excited about her new job and very enthusiastic about the new and challenging tasks given to her to get the files back into order.

There are three office staff members assigned to handle student issues and the daily functioning of the school. Martha is a senior and elderly office aid who is partially disabled and can barely stand for long periods of time. Daniel, the receptionist, has a spotty attendance record because this job is one of his three part-time jobs. Lastly is Linda, who tries to keep everything together by making up for the deficiencies of her co-workers.

Riley’s first month went by smoothly as she started to get a handle on her job duties and performed well. However, Martha had taken a fall at home and is now out on medical leave. Daniel, when he shows up, is not much help as he believes that answering the phone is his only responsibility.

Riley, young and full of energy, decided to be a team player and help Linda who has been running around the office trying to keep things operating by herself.

Riley finds herself handling parent and student issues when they arise. Parents randomly burst into the office when there is an issue with their child or the school. Disciplinary students are sent to the office by their teachers to be reprimanded. However, Riley enjoys working with the students, and they now look to her to resolve their issues of lateness, uniforms, early dismissals, etc. Even the parents are taking advantage of her ability to immediately handle their issues and complaints. Success in these endeavors gives her joy and a sense of value being the go-to person in the office.

Now Riley has been called into the principal’s office to be reprimanded as the principal has been raising the issue of new students’ files not being updated and grades not being entered in a timely manner. She explained that she had been helping the office staff with parents and students.

While the principal has expressed her appreciation, she explains to Riley that she has an annual report that she has to submit to the school board and it must be completed in ten days. Therefore, while she is helping out in the office, student files, grades, and tuitions must be updated and recorded in order to generate an annual report.

Juggling her core responsibilities and assisting the office staff, Riley is feeling overwhelmed and underpaid as the job that she has accepted initially has changed dramatically. Due to her high energy and work ethic she pushes through each day despite being mentally and physically drained.

The mental and physical stress has caused her to withdraw from being a team player. She is drifting back to her cubicle next to the principal’s office more and more each day. Martha, who has gotten use to her being there, calls on her for help, but Riley insists that she has too much work and cannot assist at that time.


Factors of Job Satisfaction

  • Job Characteristics

Riley’s job consists of many clerical duties as well as working with members of faculty and students on a daily basis.  She was given the autonomy to do what she needed to in order to reorganize and update the files.  Skill variety and autonomy are two factors which may have drawn Riley to the position superficially, but there are other factors such as stress and working conditions that are also considered to be job characteristics (PSU WC, L.11, p. 4).  While Riley was becoming acclimated to the position she had a great attitude about her job and had a bit of help from a couple of other workers in the office.  Since she was still new and learning the job her stress level seemed to be minimal which had a positive impact on her job satisfaction.  Riley’s situation is not uncommon, though.  A study completed in the healthcare industry showed a direct relationship between the perceived level of stress and job satisfaction (Applebaum, et al, 2010, p. 328).  In this case, Riley experienced positive job characteristics in the beginning, which correlated to increased job satisfaction.  Aside from characteristics, social comparisons also directly impact satisfaction.  

  • Social Comparisons

In the office Riley is exposed to two prominent attitudes: being a team-player and being lackadaisical.  Linda is constantly trying to help everyone since Martha is unable to do as much and Daniel will not do anything other than answer the phone.  Linda’s go-getter mannerisms influenced Riley to pitch-in and help where necessary.  In the workplace existing attitudes can positively or negatively impact a new employee’s level of job satisfaction (PSU WC, L.11, p. 4).  In this case, early-on Riley seemed to be impacted by Linda’s attitude more than any of the other coworkers’.  Linda seemed to carry the burden of task completion for the department, but she did not openly complain about it.  The other factor which influences job satisfaction is disposition.

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  • Disposition

Riley was energetic and enthusiastic about the new job.  Even when she noticed others slacking in the office, she continued to keep a positive attitude.  People who exhibit positive outlooks on life tend to experience higher levels of job satisfaction than those who do not (PSU WC, L.11, p. 4).  In contrast, Daniel is working three jobs and does not want to do more than he absolutely has to, which is why he will only answer the phones.  With Daniel’s refusal to help anyone else in the office, it shows that his disposition is more negative than Riley’s.  In the end Riley’s positive attitude impacts her job satisfaction even though it is not necessarily related to her position.  

Factors of Job Dissatisfaction

  • Job Characteristics

Riley’s job had just started and she was dissatisfied in her pay, however, she knew that there was a potential in 90 days to receive a raise. This allowed Riley to stay satisfied in her job, while dissatisfied with the pay. This was due to the fact that her satisfaction is not just in relation to what she sees now but rather what she may also receive in the future (PSU WC, L.11, p.4). Her job just consisted of her core responsibilities: filing, student data entry, and processing tuition payments. However, over time she took on more responsibilities in order to help her fellow staff members who were not completing their tasks. This leads to her being reprimanded by the principal due to not completing her core duties. Now, not only is she dissatisfied due to pay; but she feels overwhelmed and stressed with all of her tasks which leads to dissatisfaction with co-workers and supervision, and her potential raise could be at risk. Based on the five dimensions of job satisfaction including the work, salary, promotional opportunities, supervision, and co-workers,it would be safe to say that now there are more negatives in the list making her more dissatisfied with her job (Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969).


  • Social Comparisons

There are currently three individuals for Riley to compare herself to: Linda, who is always helping others and taking over responsibilities within the office that others slack on, Martha, who is very old and unable to perform most of her duties as quickly as the others, and Daniel, who will not do anything other than answer the phone, if he shows up. At first it seems like Riley chooses to take after Linda and help her with tasks among the office, however, after her reprimand she starts to follow after Daniel and refuses to do any duties that are not related to her core responsibilities. Her dissatisfaction with her workplace and the situation caused her to start emulating Daniels behavior rather than Lindas. She became complacent with poor job performance, refusing to anything over the required minimum.. For example, when asked for help by Martha, Riley started to stay in her cubicle and make excuses as to why she could not help.

  • Disposition

Riley chooses to have a happy disposition despite her initial dissatisfaction with her salary. This leads us to believe that she naturally is high in positive affectivity (PSU WC, L.11, p.4). Even despite her overwhelming tasks and taking over for those who would not or could not do the work, she continued to have a positive attitude. It wasn’t until she found herself being reprimanded that she started to have a negative attitude towards her workplace.

Variables of Job Satisfaction

  • Performance

Initially, when Riley began her job her performance level was high; partially due to the excitement of a new job and the fact she naturally has high energy levels. One factor as to why she displays high performance levels is the expectation of a future pay increase. Riley knows that if she maintains a high level of performance the possibility of a raise will be within her grasp. She is able to progress at a rate she perceives as appropriate; thus keeping her satisfied with her current status quo. Another motivator leading to her performance level is her initiative in handling whatever issues manifest. Perhaps she likes the fact that she is the “go-to” person within her office. Knowing that some of her co-workers display lower levels of performance can be used to her advantage. For example, Riley enjoys interacting with students and parents; truly valuing the internal satisfaction she receives from helping others. She does not feel burdened by helping others, including her co-workers, and is confident that she can handle the additional workload. Her natural ability to perform well coupled with her motivation to succeed allows her opportunities to succeed beyond that of her peers (PSU WC, L.11, p. 3).

  • Absenteeism

Riley does not engage in absenteeism. She values her job and is looking forward to her performance review. Internally she may believe that she cannot afford to be absent from work due to being newly hired and it is expected of her. She may also feel obligated to work because she has to carry some of the workload of her co-workers who display lackluster performance.

  • Turnover

Riley can infer that the turnover rate in her office is quite low. The fact that her job position had been vacant for a good period of time indicates that the job requires special skills. Riley knows that if she can learn the skills needed she will likely maintain the job position; thus increasing the prospect of job security. Her job satisfaction is likely be high because even if she did not like all aspects of the job, she is utilizing her knowledge and expertise along with a decent amount of autonomy. Her basic needs are being met. Additionally, she has seen the motivation level of other co-workers in her office and chooses not to engage in those negative behaviors. This can indicate that she is satisfied with most aspects of her job and is not willing to perform in ways that could be detrimental to her success.

Variables of Job Dissatisfaction

  • Performance

Riley began her new job highly motivated. However, Riley begins to help out when Martha becomes injured and cannot come to work, Daniel performs poorly in his role, and Linda seems to be overburdened in her role. Unfortunately, Riley’s helpfulness is a detriment to her responsibilities, and she is reprimanded.

In Riley’s case her job satisfaction becomes affected because she becomes unclear about where her responsibilities lie and is ultimately reprimanded for neglecting some of the duties she was hired to perform. This lack of clarity causes her to become unsatisfied and overwhelmed which leads her to refuse to help Martha when she asks for help.

  • Absenteeism

Riley continues to show up for work, but Daniel’s spotty attendance affects the entire office. His attitude on performance is affecting other people in the office.

  • Turnover

Riley has not been working at this job very long. The responsibilities do not seem to be clear, and Riley is overwhelmed. As such, she may begin looking for another job if the principle does not define roles clearly and do something with Daniel’s performance.


Riley’s behavioral predisposition also affects her job satisfaction. She brings a sense of youthfulness and energy to her new job, which makes her excited and willing to help. Based on her enjoyment for helping the students and parents, it is likely that Riley is a naturally helpful and understanding person. Her behavior the first month has also demonstrated her work ethic. Her positive attitude and behavior has contributed to her her performance and overall job satisfaction.

While existing behaviors can affect satisfaction, the job can also affect Riley’s behavior. After her boss reprimanded her for not completing the tasks that were initially assigned to her, Riley started acting more withdrawn and less helpful. Behaviors are not always aligned with attitudes, though (PSU WC, L. 11, p. 3). Riley may still have a positive attitude about her new job, but her recent behavior shows more of her dissatisfaction with her job.


Our case ecompasses the complexity of job satisfaction through changes in Riley’s behaviors and perceptions about her job in response to changes in her work environment. More specifically Riley’s situation shows how organizational influences might affect an employee’s global satisfaction with their workplace. Prior to reprimand Riley’s performance is above the minimum requirements. Post reprimand Riley’s performance is more closely compared to the performance of the employee who is noted to be the least productive on the team. We know that job satisfaction is somehow correlated with performance, therefore we can conclude that the effect of her reprimand was likely perceived negatively which ultimately decreased the quality of her performance. We can’t conclude the exact cause of the decrease in her job satisfaction, nor can we conclude the precise variables that caused her satisfaction and positive performance prior to the reprimand (PSU WC, L.11). Even without causality there is much value in the study and understanding of job satisfaction and its effect on motivation and performance, especially for organizations wishing to maximize performance.


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