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Are you staying in your current job because you enjoy performing the duties involved?  Or, are you staying in the job because you like the pay, but actually hate the tasks?  When work is interesting, meaningful, and enjoyable, employees will be more satisfied and perform better (PSU-PSYCH484, L10, n.d).  Oftentimes, people stay in jobs because they think that the pay can’t be achieved anywhere else.  They are unhappy in their position, and are not committed to making a difference through their output, or by putting in extra effort.  From a managerial position, the employee may be seen as lazy and not worth keeping.  When an employee feels that their work is meaningful however, they are consistently more motivated, satisfied and productive; It is also known that employee absenteeism can reduce as well (Campion & Thayer, 1987). 

The Principles of Scientific Management was published by Frederick Taylor in 1911. In it (self-evidently), he laid out the principles of scientific management, which means in short, mechanical science applied to human work. At the time, (we hope that) he had no idea that what he was doing would make life a miserable experience for hundreds of millions of people for an indefinite number of years thereafter! Quite obviously, human beings are not designed or constructed in the same way as machines, and we are not ‘meant’ to do repetitive, monotonous, tasks over and over for 8 to 10 hours a day, day after day, year after year.  Considering what we take as common knowledge today, one might think that a mechanical engineer in 1911 should have been expected to realize that, but not so.  Nor would anyone formally question the idea for many decades!  While the repetitive stress injuries, alcoholism, despair and depression accumulated, things continued uninterrupted solely for the sake of company cost-savings and productivity.  Such body- and soul-crushing factory work continues unabated, performed by millions of women and children, but has moved 'conveniently' off-shore, so that we, as Americans, need not know, or think about, where our clothes, electronics, shoes, toys, food, etc. comes from, or under what conditions it was created or grown. 

In this country, the working person was gradually saved from most physically unsafe conditions by our fair- and safe-labor laws.  However, it wasn't until the "1950s and 1960s, [that] job-based theories introduced the idea that job content can impact motivation either positively or negatively" (PSU-PSYCH484, L10, n.d.).

Jobs are often designed in a way that encourages specialization.  Work is divided into specific tasks, with the employee assigned to each task becoming very skilled, accurate and efficient at performing it.  However, an often overlooked problem with specialization is that it generally has a negative impact on employee motivation (among other things).  While an employee may become very efficient and skilled at completing a repetitive task, the lack of variety can lead to boredom, and a feeling of detachment from the overall goals and success of the business.  They feel that as long as they complete their job satisfactorily, there is no need to be concerned with any other aspect of the business (Motivating Employees, n.d.).

In this Wiki, we discuss Job Design, and how it relates to employees.  Specifically, a member of our team will discuss their experience in a former job.  It wasn't until they sat through a demonstration of a product line that they realized they did not want to continue in that position.  Here, we will explore why that was, and what the managers could have done differently.  

The Case

Prior to "Robert's" current profession, he was a salesman in a variety of arenas. Before connecting with the company in this case scenario, he had been a jewelry salesman, phone service door-to-door salesman, and business-to-business office supply salesman. As he improved in skill as a salesman, he grew in wisdom and maturity. Robert began to realize that he needed to find a sales job with a company that was more stable which offered desirable incentives such as health insurance, vacation time, and an expense account. He found these requirements with an office supply corporation out of Manhattan, NY.

Robert was fortunate to find this company and the incentive package was attractive and generous. He had years of previous sales experience and knew a lot about the products he would be selling. Regardless of his level of experience in sales and product knowledge, his immediate manager was still extremely helpful. The manager would share contacts with Robert, go on sales calls, and critique his progress. Robert was exceedingly pleased with this sales manager, who was humorous, and genuinely cared about his progress while offering to help at every turn as he became adjusted to the way this company did business. One of Robert's new sales associates was a colleague from a previous job, and his guidance in office supply sales in New York City helped him flourish immediately. There were a team of specialists and logistics experts that created sales presentations, aided in prompt delivery, and were a pleasure to work with. Robert genuinely enjoyed each member of the sales support team and found his time with them to be interesting and engaging. As a salesperson with a group of clients requiring different needs and having different schedules, he was given a great deal of autonomy in creating his own schedule as long as he was able to secure his sales quota. There were a great deal of office supply companies working in the target-rich environment of Manhattan which meant there was always the challenge of bringing potential clients over to Robert's company which helped Robert to hone his craft and also led to fun and unique challenges within the office supply sales environment.

Despite the fact that the incentives were great, he enjoyed everyone he worked with, the company owners were a hoot, and there was ample feedback and support from his team, Robert knew something was missing but he couldn't seem to identify what that was for him. The answer occurred to him one afternoon when a specialist from his support team was explaining the intricacies of rubber stamps. As this fellow explored detailed descriptions about the manufacturing process, various degrees and types of material that could be used, and the resulting stamp quality, Robert realized that he actually did not care about stamps, nor the world of office supplies. The very next morning, Robert sat down with his sales manager and explained to him that he would no longer be working for the company, nor continuing to sell office supplies. His primary reason for this sudden shift was expressed as a total lack of interest and a disconnect from any appreciation of the importance of providing people with critical office supplies. This was not a world-changing industry, and the requirements were merely a necessity of doing business. In Robert's mind, if he wasn't selling these supplies, someone else would be. He could not find a meaningful sentiment in getting people the pens, folders, and ink they required as a part of their jobs.

Applying the Theories to the Case 


Hackman and Oldham (1976) - Job Characteristics Theory

Job Characteristics Theory was introduced by Hackman and Oldham in 1976. This theory has become a well-known approach to job-based motivation. Job Characteristics theory makes the assumption that when people find “the work interesting they will enjoy their jobs, and will therefore be highly motivated and perform well” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p6). The theory consists of three primary parts which include: core job dimensions, psychological states, and outcomes.  The diagram below provides an visual illustration of this and will help in gaining understanding while we will explore each part as it pertains to our case custody.


Figure 6.3

Skill variety "refers to the number of different skills a job requires” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p7). As a sales professional, Robert used high skill variety to help him with his job. He clearly knew how to build customer relationships, identify customer needs, understand his company’s product line, and was skilled in the act of selling a product. The skills Robert had from his previous roles made for a good match for this particular job design; he was able to use his many talents to accomplish tasks and reach company goals of the job.

Task identity refers to “the extent to which a job requires completing an entire piece of work from beginning to end” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p.7). During Robert’s tenure a question we might have asked in an assessment of task identity is, “Would you consider your job one that is viewed as a small part of a larger task or does he start and finish the whole part of his task?”. The reason this is important is because depending upon his answer, his task identity would be either high (whole) or low (part). More than likely being in sales, Robert saw his position as a high level of task identity because he had to utilize many skills to accomplish the many tasks involved in a sales cycle. 

Task significance refers to “the impact that a job has on others” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p.8). This is aspect of the theory is not as black and white as achieving a task but has more to do with an individual’s sense of contributing to something that actually matters which makes this a subjective question and answer. What is meaningful to one person, may not perceived as meaningful to someone else. In our case study we learn that Robert performed his tasks well, enjoyed his peers, his manager, and had a list of other positives as they related to the job. However, what led to Robert’s departure from his job was an overwhelming sense that he was not involved in a “world-changing industry” and therefore he felt his job had a low level of significance and he was ultimately looking for something that had a high level of significance so that he could feel good about what he was doing. This was the key motivator for Robert’s departure.

Autonomy refers to “the degree of freedom, discretion, and independence that people have to do their jobs as they see fit” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p. 8). Robert enjoyed his autonomy which was granted to him as a direct result of achieving his sales goals. He had control over his calendar, his customer meetings, and his personal schedule which was perfect for a tenured sales person who knew how to be successful and did not require a lot of direction or time management from his manager. 

Job feedback refers to “the extent to which the job provides direct and clear information about the effectiveness of performance” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p. 8). According to Robert, his job feedback as an office supply salesman was very good. Despite the fact that Robert brought plenty of experience to the position, his sales manager was very helpful and engaging, which he viewed as a benefit to the position. The manager provided sales leads, attended meetings with Robert, and was very good about providing immediate feedback for Robert’s progression in the new role which was important to him. Because Robert was in sales, feedback also came in the form of a sales quota. If he reached or exceeded his sales quota than the feedback was positive but if he failed to reach his sales quota provided, than the feedback was that there was more work that needed to be done next time.

Critical Psychological States 

The five core job dimensions we describe are linked to three “critical psychological states, which represent what individuals experience psychologically from the characteristics of the job” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p.8). As assess Robert’s experience psychologically from the core job dimensions aspect of his job we understand that Robert’s evaluation of a meaningful experience in the workplace correlated to the core job dimensions of: skill variety, task identity, and task significance.  In Robert’s case, it was his low level of task significance which ultimately led him to be unmotivated to continue at his current position as an office supplies salesman. Robert enjoyed his autonomy as it matched his sense of responsibility as an employee and he enjoyed the freedom to run his business. If Robert felt that he was being micromanaged or not trusted to his job, he might have arrived at his decision to leave much earlier but because he valued and was given autonomy, it met a psychological need of his to feel important in his role. Feedback is tied directly to an outcome and leads to knowledge of results where “workers who receive considerable feedback will psychologically possess knowledge of their effectiveness” (PSU WC 2015, L.10, p.8) which for Robert was a benefit to working for his manager and team because the outcome for him was he felt satisfied he was doing a good job and felt motivated to be successful until he identified the lack of meaningfulness to his job description.


Personal Work Outcomes

One of the key aspects of the Job Design Theory includes the personal work outcomes as experienced by the worker, in this case, Robert. “When employees experience meaningfulness, responsibility, and knowledge of results, they should be more motivated, satisfied, and productive, as well as absent less frequently, and unlikely to resign” (PSU WC 2015, L10 p. 8).  While Robert felt very satisfied with his relationships, job performance, job role, he was unable to achieve the meaningfulness of his position so that ultimately the work outcome was that he did resign.

An interesting way of looking at this is through the research team of Hackman and Oldham (1975) proposed formula called the Motivational Potential Score (MPS). This method is the process of calculating a job’s ability to motivate a person. This formula is MPS= (Skill variety + task significance + task autonomy/3) * autonomy * feedback (Hackman and Oldham, 1975). Because of the multiplicative nature of the formula, any score of 0 on any one of the major components (autonomy, feedback, or the sum of skill variety, task significance, and task identity) results in a motivational score of 0” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p.9) which provides an understanding why Robert ultimately left his position. Despite scoring high in task identity, skill variety, autonomy, and feedback, his task significance was a 0, thus the motivation to stay was 0.

Image 7. Public Domain.

Growth Need Strength

The last part of this theory we will examine is the growth need strength, which is “an individual difference variable that refers to a person’s need for the fulfillment of higher-order needs such as achievement, personal growth, and self-actualization” (PSU WC 2015, L10, p.9). If Robert simply wanted to be told what to do, how to do, and when to show up in order to do it and simply receive a paycheck and go home then it would be rather unlikely that providing him with more freedom, or training him on new skills would have been viewed as a favorable outcome. However, as we have learned, Robert had plenty of skills, positive feedback, and autonomy but what he lacked was a sense of a higher purpose. His need for fulfillment was lacking and therefore he did not feel like he was able to contribute in a manner he felt esteemed about in the long run. Changing Robert’s job function or title would not have mattered because he had made the decision that selling office supplies was not, in his opinion, world-changing and to him that was a fundamental need in order to grow professionally and personally.


Campion and Thayer (1987) - A Multidisciplinary Approach to Job Design

The theory by Campion and Thayer (1987), based on their study in job design, includes four different approaches: Mechanistic, Motivational, Biological, and Perceptual/Motor Job Design.  Robert’s sales job scores very well on the Mechanistic Job Design scale.  His job was not specialized, and did not involve a limited number of tools or procedures.  Additionally, tasks were not simple, singular, or overly repetitive.  Virtually no work was automated, or assisted by a machine (at least not one more complex than a phone, fax, printer or computer).  Lastly, the job required a relatively large amount of skill and training time, in contrast to Mechanistic Jobs.  Hence, this aspect of work design had no substantial room for improvement.


       (Image 4:

Regarding the Biological Job Design scale, there was little muscular strength needed for Robert’s job.  Additionally, the lifting was fairly little and only very light weights.  Hence, fairly little muscular endurance was needed for the job.  The seating arrangements on the job were adequate, with ample opportunities to sit.  No aspect of the job depended on being particularly large or small, hence allowing for all size differences between people.  The work of office supplies salesman allowed the wrists to remain straight, avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome.  The work did involve travel within NYC, which is never free from excessive noise and pollution.  However, the climate at the workplace was always comfortable, in terms of temperature and humidity; and was free of excessive dust and fumes.  There was adequate time given for work breaks, considering the demands of the job.  As for shift work, or excessive overtime, these were never required or expected.  Hence, on the Biological Job Design scale, Robert’s work scored very well, with little room for improvement.  

Regarding the Perceptual/Motor Job Design scale, the lighting, displays, programs, equipment, and printed job materials were all comfortable and appropriate.  The workplace layout was perfectly adequate, both within and outside of the office.  As for the amount of attention needed to perform the job, it varied hour to hour, but was generally within reasonable boundaries.  Regarding Campion and Thayer’s (1987), “Information output requirements,” this was an area where Robert did score highly, as he had to handle a large “amount of information,” which he needed to be ready to issue forth as “output on [the] job, in terms of both action and communication” (p.73).  In contrast, the information processing requirements, in terms of thinking and problem solving, were far more moderate.  The memory requirements were fairly high, and could even be considered tedious.  The level of stress was moderate, in that while support was maximal, the working environment (NYC), and the sales quotas, kept the pressure on.  As for Campion and Thayer’s (1987) last aspect of the Perceptual/Motor Job Design scale, namely ‘boredom,’ Robert did indeed seem to become bored of the work the more deeply he got involved in it.  All-in-all, Robert’s score on this section was still very good.  His need to remember a substantial amount of information and the stress involved with sales quotas are both difficult to circumvent.  

The most meaningful job level in Robert’s former position was the Motivational Job Design scale, in many ways the only one directly relevant here.  This aspect stems from the “theories of work motivation and organizational behavior…[and] Its basis is organizational psychology” (Campion and Thayer, 1987, p.71).  According to Campion and Thayer (1987), p.70, the scale can be outlined as follows: 


1. Autonomy: Does the job allow freedom, independence, or discretion in work scheduling, sequence, methods, procedures, quality control, or other decisions?

2. Intrinsic job feedback: Do the work activities themselves provide direct, clear information about the effectiveness (in terms of quality and quantity) of job performance?

3. Extrinsic job feedback: Do other people in the organization (such as managers and coworkers) provide information about the effectiveness (in terms of quality and quantity) of job performance?

4. Social interaction: Does the job provide for positive social interaction (such as teamwork or coworker assistance)?

5. Task/goal clarity: Are the job duties, requirements, and goals clear and specific?

6. Task variety: Does the job have a variety of duties, tasks, and activities?

7. Task identity: Does the job require completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work? Does it give the incumbent a chance to do an entire piece of work from beginning to end?

8. Ability/skill-level requirements: Does the job require a high level of knowledge, skills, and abilities?

9. Ability/skill variety: Does the job require a variety of types of knowledge, skills, and abilities?

10. Task significance: Is the job significant and important compared with other jobs in the organization?

11. Growth/learning: Does the job allow opportunities for learning and growth in competence and proficiency?

12. Promotion: Are there opportunities for advancement to higher-level jobs?

13. Achievement: Does the job provide for feelings of achievement and task accomplishment?

14. Participation: Does the job allow participation in work-related decision making?

15. Communication: Does the job provide access to relevant communication channels and information flows?

16. Pay adequacy: Is the pay for this job adequate compared with the job requirements and pay for similar jobs?

17. Recognition: Does the job provide acknowledgment and recognition from others?

18. Job security: Do incumbents on this job have a high degree of job security?

According to Robert, some of these aspects were met very well, even well beyond satisfactorily, while others were so entirely lacking that the deficit caused him to suddenly quit not only his job, but the entire sales profession!  We will review each in turn to see where improvement could have been accomplished.  Robert’s autonomy was adequate, but we do not know the details of his day to day freedom.  However, since he seemed very happy with his management, we can assume that autonomy was perfectly adequate if not greater.  As for the intrinsic job feedback, this was somewhere between adequate and lacking.  While Robert did receive feedback from customers, it was no always timely, and oftentimes not available at all.  The extrinsic job feedback however was in good order, as Robert received regular advice from both managers and coworkers.  The social interaction was pleasant and comfortable, as Robert said, he had a very helpful coworker and a “sales manager, who was humorous, and genuinely cared about his progress while offering to help at every turn.”  As for the task/goal clarity, the job duties, requirements, and goals were clear and specific, leaving little room for doubt or ambiguity.  The task variety, or variety of duties, tasks, and activities, was adequate, though limited by the type of work environment (offices) and the product being sold (office supplies).  In the end, the insufficient task variety was a part of Robert’s sudden departure from the firm.  Regarding task identity, in a certain sense there was an ability to see the “completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work” (Campion and Thayer, 1987, p.70).  However, since Robert was only selling office supplies, tools to perform other operations, he felt that he was too small a part of the larger projects of which he took no part.  This unnatural disconnect from the greater picture was what eventually led to his exodus from the industry.  Considering that the job involved extensive knowledge of human nature, simultaneously with complete knowledge of office supplies, it is safe to say that both the ability/skill-level and variety were together reasonable and pleasing.  It is on task significance that Robert felt so completely dissatisfied that he simply quit his job.  As mentioned, since he was selling office supplies, which he did not construct, to organizations, which he did not work for, he did not generally see any task completed beyond his own sales.  This was an inadequate level of task significance for him.  Additionally, the opportunity for growth and learning was insufficient.  Robert already knew the office supplies profession before he had began the job in discussion, doing the same work again taught him very little.  The opportunities for promotion or unique achievement were minimal.  So long as sales quota’s were met, everyone would be perfectly content.  Participation was welcomed, and communication was open at all levels of the organization.  These factors of the scale needed no improvement.  Additionally, the pay was more than adequate, as was the positive recognition.  Lastly, job security was essentially guaranteed so long as sales quotas were maintained.

Overall, motivational aspects are very important in job design.  For example, “Absenteeism tends to be lower and job performance higher among employees whose jobs can be characterized as high in motivational job design approach” (Campion and Thayer, 1987, p.71).  However, “given the more stimulating nature of highly motivational jobs, the employees are more prone to suffer stress and mental overload, and errors are more likely to occur” (Campion and Thayer, 1987, p.71).  Robert’s job was high performance and high stimulation, but because it failed to provide adequate task significance, growth or learning, the final sum was insufficient to hold his interest or employment.  


The job design approach in I/O psychology was first pioneered by Frederick Herzberg.  In 1959, Herzberg proposed the Two-Factor theory, which posits that “motivation derives from the nature of the job itself, not from external rewards or situations on the job” (PSU WC, L 10, p. 3).  Herzberg’s two-factor theory divided the work environment into two categories hygiene factors and motivators.  Hygiene factors represent the extrinsic elements in a work environment such as “company policy and administration, supervision, salary, interpersonal relations, and working conditions” (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959).  Motivators which represent the intrinsic elements in a work environment and relate to job content are autonomy, the amount of challenge, and responsibility.  Although Herzberg and his associates pioneered the job design approach, there is little support for the two-factor theory in terms of research. The research supporting the two-factor theory yielded mixed results.  “Some studies support the theory, while others failed to support it or parts of it” (Harpaz, 1983, as cited in Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959).  Herzberg’s two factor theory led to the development and application of job enrichment, which involves redesigning jobs so that self-driven employees are given more tasks and experience greater levels of control and autonomy.  

Despite there being little research support Herzberg’s two-factor theory, Herzberg however, is still considered a pioneer in I/O psychology as his “work led to the realization that job content can have a significant impact on employee motivation and satisfaction” (PSU WC, L 10, p. 6).  With that being said, in 1976 Hackman and Oldham developed the job characteristics theory.  When a task is interesting, individuals will enjoy their work, as well as, be motivated to perform at higher levels.  Job characteristics theory improves upon Herzberg’s two-factor theory by providing a way to measure each component of their theory called the Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS), a means to calculate motivational potential (MPS), and by introducing the concept of growth need strength, as two-factor theory “does not provide for differences among people in how responsive they are likely to be to "enriched" jobs” (Hackman & Oldham, 1976).  Furthermore unlike two-factor theory, job characteristics theory has a greater amount of research support, but has only produced mixed results (PSU WC, L 10, p. 10).

Two-factor theory and job characteristics theory were both developed from a psychological perspective. However job design is a topic of interest in fields outside of psychology.  In 1987, Campion and Thayer developed “an approach to guide the design and redesign of jobs” (PSU WC, L 10, p. 13).  This guide included four different approaches to job design and that each approach is actually geared toward a different set of outcomes.  Each approach has its own costs and benefits, and no single approach is best; trade-offs will be required in most practical situations” (Campion & Thayer, 1987).  As mentioned above those approaches are mechanist, motivational, biological, and perceptual/motor. As a way to help managers assess the design and redesign of a particular job, the four job-design questionnaire was created.  “The greater the number of affirmative responses to the questions for one of the approaches, the better that job is designed in terms of that approach and the more likely it is that the job will produce the outcomes that approach is intended to maximize” (Campion & Thayer, 1987).     

Morgeson and Humphrey designed a study and subsequent Work Design Questionnaire to create a more comprehensive picture of the Job Design Assessment and the nature of work (Morgeson, 2006).  They focused their efforts on this subject because of the identification of work design being important for a range of individual, group and organizational outcomes (Morgeson, 2006).  The saw fault with various aspects of previously crafted job design surveys in that there was a lack of internal validity.  The Multimethod Job Design Questionnaire (MJDS) created by Campion also fell victim to measurement problems. 

The study by Morgeson and Humphrey capture the middle ground between task and attribute measures (Morgeson, 2006).  The focus of this study was the more broad idea of work design, as opposed to the narrower term job design because work design acknowledges the link between jobs and the broader environment.   The study discusses a three component structure of work.  There is investigation of the motivational characteristics which have considerable evidence and study, interpersonal and social aspects that have received less study and contextual characteristics which reflect the context within which work is performed, including the physical and environmental contexts (Morgeson, 2006). 

Motivational characteristics involve ideas previously discussed ideas of task significance, autonomy, task variety, skill variety, task identity and feedback.  Social aspects involve social support, which reflects the degree to which a job provides opportunity for advice and assistance from others. Interdependence reflects the degree to which the job depends on others.  Interaction outside the organization reflects the extent to which the job requires employees to interact and communicate with individuals external to organization.  Feedback from others reflects the degree to which others in the organization provide information about performance (Morgeson, 2006). 

Contextual characteristics involve physical and environmental conditions such as ergonomics, physical demands, work conditions which reflects the environment within which a job is performed, and equipment use (Morgeson, 2006). 

The work design questionnaire developed through the integration of these ideas into measurement metrics has yielded a more comprehensive contribution to work design theory.   It creates an understanding and broadens the ideas that have been introduced by Herzberg, Campion, and Hackman and Oldham.  The benefit of this broadened research study has developed a higher degree of internal consistency that can guide further research and application (Morgeson, 2006). 



Discussion and Conclusion

The two theories discussed here both have strong empirical research to support their validity.  Regarding Job Characteristics Theory, there has been extensive, largely positive, research conducted.  “Based on a comprehensive meta-analysis of over 200 studies conducted across many different types of jobs, Fried and Ferris (1987) found that the core job dimensions were related to outcomes such as job satisfaction, motivation, absenteeism, and turnover” (PSU-PSYCH484, L10, n.d.).  “An earlier meta-analysis also found that the more jobs were enriched, the more satisfied the people who perform them [were]” (Loher, Noe, Moeller, & Fitzgerald, 1985).  The same researchers found that the average correlations between scores on the five core job dimensions (listed above) and reported job satisfaction were around .40, which is considered highly substantial in psychological research (PSU-PSYCH484, L10, n.d.).  The theory, however, has not proven to be generalizable around the world (PSU-PSYCH484, L10, n.d.). 
For Campion and Thayer’s (1987), Mechanistic, Motivational, Biological, and Perceptual/Motor Job Design theory, the research has also been sound.  Through an exhaustive search of relevant literature, Campion & Thayer (1987) analyzed more than 120 different jobs.  The complete details of their work is available in: “Development and Field Evaluation of an Interdisciplinary Measure of Job Design” by Michael A. Campion and Paul W. Thayer (Journal of Applied Psychology, February 1985).  
Regarding Robert’s sudden epiphany and departure from his sales position, he was affected by several aspects of job design.  Firstly, the lack of task identity was reflected in that, while he got to see a sale through from start to finish, he did not get to see any positive changes or outcomes of the supplies he was selling, so that his task seemed only a small part of an unknown larger whole.  Similarly, regarding task significance, his sales work seemed to lack meaning because he did not get to see any of the good, or necessity, of the supplies he was purveying on those buying them, and this eventually led to a feeling of insufficient value in that job.  In Campion and Thayer’s (1987) theory, only the motivational aspect was highly relevant for Robert.  However, of the 18 points in that category, only three were directly responsible for his dissatisfaction, namely the task identity, task significance and the potential for growth and learning.  Task identity and significance are identical to the previous theory.  Almost everyone wants to feel that they are growing in wisdom, knowledge and experience over time.  When a job does not have an opportunity to keep improving, i.e. there is a low ceiling of growth potential, a worker can become disgruntled and look for a way out.  That is what happened in Robert’s case.  When he realized that the highest he could possibly go was to master the differences in rubber stamps, he knew it was time to leave! 
What could have Robert’s employer have done differently that would have turned his frown upside down?  First, the employer could have made more of an effort to work closely with companies and regularly talk about what the company does and why.  This would have relayed the meaning from the company being provided office supplies to the supplier, hence creating a mutual appreciation for the end-goal of the office supplies.  This would have satisfied the need for both task identity and task significance.  Additionally, the employer could have created a hierarchical system, whereby those advancing in knowledge could advance to more complicated businesses, with an end-goal of knowing the actual functioning of the businesses being supplied.  In this way, the growth and learning would be theoretically unlimited, and thereby satisfied.   



Campion, M., & Thayer, P. (1987). Job design: Approaches, outcomes, and trade-offs. Organizational Dynamics, 15, 66-79.
Hackman, J. R. & Oldham, G. R. (1975). Development of the job diagnostic survey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 159-170. 
     Adapted as: Motivating Employees. (n.d.).
     Retrieved March 27, 2015, from Small Biz Connect:

Herzberg, Frederick; Mausner, Bernard; Snyderman, Barbara B. (1959). The Motivation to Work (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley.

Morgeson, F., & Humphrey, S. (2006). The Work Design Questionnaire (WDQ): Developing and validating a comprehensive measure for assessing job design and the nature of work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(6), 1321-1339.

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2014). Psych 484 Lesson 10: Job Design: Do I find my work interesting and challenging?
     Retrieved from:

Figure 6.3;

Image 4:

Image 7. Public Domain.