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"Job satisfaction refers to the degree of pleasure or positive affect that an employee has toward his or her job" (Locke, 1976).  Job characteristics, social comparison, and disposition are factors that contribute to job satisfaction.  According to research, performance, absenteeism, and turnover are three variables that correlate with job satisfaction.  "Job satisfaction has been highly studied and seems related to almost every aspect of a person’s job" (The Pennsylvania State University, 2001). Helping people attain satisfaction with what they do at their jobs, is not only an important aspect of I/O psychology, it is important to all those who work; a 1/3 of our days are spent working and we will work an average of 20 to 30 years in our lifetime (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). This personal case study will be explore and illustrate how job satisfaction is directly linked to the level of motivation and attitude an employee has in regards to his job.    


Causes of Job Satisfaction & Dissatisfaction

Job Characteristics: Looks at core characteristics and job factors when dealing with job satisfaction. “The most popular measure of job satisfaction assesses how employees feel about their jobs along five dimensions: the type of work itself, pay, promotional opportunities, supervision, and co-workers” (Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969).

Social Comparison: “The social-information processing approach to job satisfaction assumes that attitudes are determined, in part, by the attitudes of those around us” (Jex & Spector, 1989). This looks at how individuals compare themselves with others in the work place. Individuals can bring others down by whining, or motivate them as well based on attitudes.

Disposition: “The most recent explanation for job satisfaction is that some employees are more prone to be satisfied or dissatisfied, in spite of the nature of the job or the social environment” (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). Disposition is the mood and temperament of individuals and let us know if they are satisfied or dissatisfied with their jobs.

Correlates of Job Satisfaction

Performance:  Looks at how individuals perform in their jobs.  Under job satisfaction performance has been studied for over 40 years. The idea of understanding employee performance is so companies can find ways to keep employee performance meeting or exceeding company standards, rather than falling below.

Absenteeism: Looks at individuals and why they may be absent from their jobs. Companies give employees a certain amount of days for time off work. Under job satisfaction its important to know why employees are taking off work. Is it for vacation or might it be the working conditions at work?

Turnover: Looks at rate in which employees come and go from their jobs. This is an important part of wanting to see other options for employees. If they are dissatisfied they will likely seek similar or other jobs that make them satisfied.

Details of Case

Detective Matthews has been employed by the East Hartford Township Police Department since January of 1989.  Detective Matthews first worked as a patrol officer and was awarded Officer-of-the-Year in 1991.  Due to his excellent investigation skills, he was promoted to the position of detective in 1993.  Detective Matthews’ case load includes investigations of robbery, theft, fraud, and an occasional homicide, however, he specializes in the investigation of child abuse and sexual assaults that occur in East Hartford Township. 

Detective Matthews would like to be promoted to a supervisory position where he would have the opportunity to assist police officers and guide newer detectives in their investigations.  However, promotional opportunities are very rare in East Hartford Township.  Detective Matthews is also under the impression that social networking with the current supervisors is more important to obtain a promotion, rather than work ethic or experience.  Detective Matthews chooses not to engage in office politics and therefore has been in the same position since 1993 doing the same type of cases. 

Although Detective Matthews work ethic is strong and he still cares for the victims of the cases he investigates, he is extremely dissatisfied with the department where he works and no longer tries to go ‘above and beyond’ in order to complete his duties. 


Given the subjective nature of job satisfaction, evaluative, cognitive, and behavioral components must be considered in order to determine overall global job satisfaction.  For Detective Matthews' case, an evaluation was performed according to his individual job facet satisfaction.  By examining specific facet areas relevant to his job, his global job satisfaction was determined.  This in turn, could assist the department he works for in diagnosing organizational issues, and highlight areas for intervention  (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011).   Although the causes of job satisfaction are complex and multifaceted, three general categories contribute to job satisfaction: Job Characteristics, Social Comparisons, and Disposition (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). These three categories, along with additional correlates that influence satisfaction, will provide us with the evaluative, cognitive, and behavioral components needed to determine the detective's job satisfaction. 

Job Characteristics

Research has shown that job satisfaction is determined by the nature and characteristics of jobs (Spector & Jex, 1991).  Smith, Kendall, & Hulin (1969), developed the five facets of job satisfaction that assess how employees feel about their jobs.  By analyzing Detective Matthews' case according to the five categories, more insight was gained into his level of satisfaction with his job.

1. Type of Work itself

Detective Matthews' is a police detective in charge of handling a range of cases, including homicide, robbery, theft and fraud.  He specializes in child abuse and sexual assault cases, which often make up the majority of his workload. He spends most of his time filling out paperwork and at other times conducting interviews.

2. Pay

His pay comes in at $67,000 annually, with overtime opportunities available for emergency call outs. Pay and benefits are reported as being satisfactory.  The detective will receive a pension when he retires at the age of 50, which is 50% of his pay for life and full medical benefits.

3. Promotional Opportunities

Promotions are available only if a supervisor were to retire, which rarely occurs at East Hartford Township, and competition for promotions is extremely difficult.  Promotions are routinely granted to employees that engage in office politics, and social networking with their supervisors.  Detective Matthews had the opportunity twice to receive recognition by promotion but was denied.  He was awarded Officer-of-the-Year in 1991 and then subsequently promoted to detective in 1993. Since being detective there have been no demerits, but no accommodations either. This is not out of the norm for the department; recognition awards were stopped once the new chief was hired.

4. Supervision

Detective Matthews usually works his cases alone, and is behind a desk unless he is out in the field conducting interviews. He operates with an amount of autonomy but has low skill variety.  He feels his direct supervisor is a micro-manager, and watches over his paperwork very closely.  He is required to keep his supervisor informed about his progress.  Since this is the case, autonomy in certain aspects is kept at a minimum.  He still works independently most of the time.  On occasions in which a suspect is viewed as a possible physical threat, a co-worker will accompany the detective to the interview. 

5. Co-Workers

East Hartford Township Police Department is on the smaller side, employing 32 patrol officers and 3 detectives, one being the supervising detective. Detective Matthews has by far the most experience of his co-workers (the supervisor was transferred to the detective division after being a supervisor of street patrol.) However, both detectives are assigned the same type of work and considered to be of equal status.

Social Comparisons

Detective Matthews is under the belief that there are certain cliques in place at work, commonly referred to as the 'good old boy' system, which is made up of those who are willing to engage in office politics and lunch with the supervisors on a daily basis.  In Detective Matthews' police department it appears that in order to get a promotion one must participate in these office politics to please the supervisors.  Although Detective Matthews is highly respected at his department for his work ethic and knowledge, it has become evident to him that promotional opportunities are not based on these factors.  To Detective Matthews, promotions are based on being part of the 'good old boy' system.  He feels that due to his lack of participation in these office politics, he has been passed over twice during promotional opportunities.  He is very frustrated and unsatisfied by this, and would like a chance to teach some of the less experienced officers what he has learned through working cases and interviewing people. His social comparison is demotivating as he is comparing his strong work ethic, experience, and knowledge to his lesser valued attributes such as office politics.

Additionally, because of the political system at work behind the scenes, overall attitude of employees is low.  The detective finds the atmosphere reflects an oppressed environment, since his co-workers feel there is not much room for promotion or advancement.  Other employees in the department, as well as himself, view their work to be routine and boring (low skill variety).  His main complaint is the complete lack of recognition/feedback for a job well done. Rarely does he get a thank-you (positive feedback) from his department or the victims that he helps.  Another complaint is that the detective's office is located in the basement of the department, on the other side of the building from where the patrol units are located upstairs. He finds communication between patrol and detectives to be lacking as a result of this, which is necessary when working on cases.  In addition, he sits at his desk for many hours throughout the day without seeing sunlight.  When he compares his work environment to some of the other officers in his department that have nicer offices, he feels additional dissatisfaction with his job.  Another area of dissatisfaction for Detective Matthews has to do with his supervisor.  He considers his supervisor to be a micro-manager, and finds working under his direction to be suppressive.  The detective also has more experience doing investigative work than his supervisor, and is bothered even more by his micro-managing for this reason. 

Overall, social comparisons to other East Hartford Township Police Department employees have produced negative and hostile feelings for Detective Matthews, which have contributed to most of the dissatisfaction he feels with his job.  


Although Detective Matthews states that his home life is positive, due to the nature of his work, he has a more cynical view of life. He feels this cynicism would have developed regardless of whether he was happy with his department or not.  He deals with the worst of the offenders, child molesters, and rapists, and considers himself to be jaded in the sense that it's hard for him to find the good in people.  His job forces him to study people in order to determine what motivates them to do horrible things, and over the years this has had an influence on his overall disposition.  Detective Matthews' disposition is leading to negative affectivity from working in his position which in turn affects his position.  In other words, one could say Detective Matthews' is spiraling into job dissatisfaction.  As he is impacted by the horrors of his victims and perpetrators his disposition becomes more negative which in turn has him respond more negatively to other aspects of his job creating overall job dissatisfaction. 

Despite feeling increasingly negative towards his position at work, Detective Matthews feels fulfilled outside of work through time spent with his wife and children, serving in the United States Air Force, and refereeing for midget football, which he finds to be healthy distractions from his dissatisfaction with work.

Correlates of Job Satisfaction

Although a good deal of research has been conducted, the relationship between job satisfaction and other factors of work is shown to be strictly correlational.  Due to the complex nature of these relationships, research has been unable to tell which factor is the primary influence on an employee's level of satisfaction.  Therefore, it is concluded that job satisfaction and other factors affecting one's job are related, but it is not possible to tell which factor is causing the satisfaction or dissatisfaction.  By examining Detective Matthews' case on the basis of performance, absenteeism, and turnover, there is a better understanding of the correlates contributing to his overall global job satisfaction.


The relationship between job satisfaction and performance has been studied for over 40 years, and there has been an overall weak relationship found between the two constructs.  A meta-analysis conducted by Iaffaldano and Muchinsky (1985), "found the correlation between satisfaction and performance to be only .17" (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). 

According to the Global Model of Performance, "performance is determined by ability, motivation, and opportunity" (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011).  As indicated by Detective Matthews' 22 year tenure and promotion to detective in 1993, it can be concluded that his ability level is high.  However, the lack of opportunity for a supervisory position has led to feelings of dissatisfaction with his job.  This has in turn led to a decrease in motivation.  When opportunity for a promotion was viewed as viable through exhibiting superior performance, the detective was motivated to go "above and beyond."  When opportunity was shown to be available only through office politics and networking, his motivation to excel decreased and his attitude became negative.  Although his satisfaction had gone down, he still continued to work on his cases relentlessly without a noticeable decrease in his performance.  However, his performance did decrease somewhat, since he is no longer going the extra mile.  The small change in performance, instead of a drastic change, could be attributed to the motivation he gets from his desire to continuing helping innocent victims.  He could also be motivated from his desire to keep his job, and to reach retirement and receive his pension.  Therefore, he maintains a minimum level of performance.  There are several correlates to his motivation, however there is not one single factor that is causing his motivation. 


There has been an overall weak relationship found between job satisfaction and absence.  While a dissatisfied worker may choose to miss work, a satisfied employee may not be able to attend work due to various circumstances.  Compared to a dissatisfied worker, a satisfied employee is more likely to attend work if they have a minor illness, such as a cold or headache.  When factors such as excused versus unexcused absences and organizational sanctions for absenteeism are taken into account, a small, but consistent negative relationship is found between the two constructs (The Pennsylvania State University, 2001). 

Detective Matthews is given a good bit of vacation time and uses it liberally, but will call off ‘sick’ a couple of times a month just in order to avoid reporting to work. If his case load is light it is not uncommon for him to call off sick 1 to 2 days a month, but these are in reality days to take a break rather than there being an illness. There is no penalty for calling off because employees are given an absurd amount of sick days, but upon retirement employees are given a bonus for the amount of sick days they have remaining which deters some people from taking too many. Employees are initially given 100 sick days and receive an additional sick day per month.  Employees receive a bonus of $100 per remaining sick day, or a bonus of $10,000 if all sick days are remaining.   In order to receive the bonus employees must have at least 55 sick days remaining.  Because of job dissatisfaction, Detective Matthews is more likely to be absent from work but he has maintained an attendance level that will qualify him for a bonus upon retirement.  Vacation time is very satisfactory (9 weeks/year) but he must schedule these in advance, so there is no way to call off last minute 'on vacation'.  There are no other types of personal days.  One can determine from examining the detective's case study, that his job dissatisfaction is correlated to absenteeism, since burnout and lack of desire to be at work has caused him to be absent.


Although Detective Matthews has been in the same position for 18 years and has been employed with the department for 22 years, he is not satisfied.  He makes a hobby out of putting in job applications and has been offered several positions, but he stays where he is in order to collect his full pension when he retires in four years.  If he were to leave prior to his retirement date, he would only receive a partial pension payment and no medical benefits.  Since this is the case, overall turnover at the department is extremely low, as is overall morale.  However, that has not deterred the detective from applying to other positions in hopes of finding his 'dream job.'  There have not been any suitable substitutes for his present job, therefore he has decided to stay where he is.  One can determine that a relationship between satisfaction and turnover does exist in this case, since the detective would take another position if one became available, and has physically looked for one in the past. 


By looking at the detective's job facet satisfaction and influencing correlates, a clearer understanding is formed of the evaluative, cognitive, and behavioral components that contribute to his global job satisfaction.  His evaluative determination deals with whether he likes or dislikes his job (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011).  The analysis concludes that there are many aspects of Detective Matthews' job he is dissatisfied with such as supervision, possibility of promotion, and routine work.  When asked, the detective confirmed these conclusions.  He stated that despite all that, he still does like his job.  His cognitive determination is concerned with his beliefs about his job (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011).  This analysis of his case tells us he finds his job rewarding, because he is helping people.  However, he also finds it to be boring and routine, and finds the atmosphere he works in to be unpleasant.  He is very pleased with the long-term benefits of holding his job, such as his pension, however unhappy with his level of supervision.  Finally, the behavioral component of his job satisfaction shows us he is predisposed to go above and beyond at work; however, if he feels that no reward will come of his hard work, he is inclined not to continue working as hard.  Detective Matthews has an overall positive attitude regarding his life, but has maintained a level of cynicism from his exposure to negative influences.  Also, altogether he does not miss too many days of work.  He has proven himself to be a dedicated and long-term employee, with his 22 year tenure.  When viewed as a whole, there is a dynamic and complex nature of Detective Matthews' job satisfaction.  Despite a lot of job facet dissatisfaction, the detective's states he is satisfied with his job globally. 

In conclusion, his case highlights the concept that correlation does not equal causation.  Many factors both related and unrelated to the work environment have an influence, and must be taken into consideration to form an accurate understanding of job satisfaction.  


Iaffaldano, M. T., & Muchinsky, P. M. (1985). Job satisfaction and performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 97,      251-273.

Jex, S. M., & Spector, P. E. (1989). The generalizability of social information processing to organizational settings: A summary of two field experiments. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 69, 883-893.

Locke, E.A. (1976).  The nature and causes of job satisfaction. In M.D. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 1297-1349). Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.

Smith, P. C., Kendall, L. M., & Hulin, C. L. (1969). Measurement of satisfaction in work and retirement. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.

Specter, P.E., & Jex, S.M. (1991). Relations of job characteristics from multiple data sources with employee affect, absence, turnover intentions, and health. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 46-53.

The Pennsylvania State University, (2011) Lesson 11: Job satisfaction: do I like my job?  Pennsylvania State University.  Retrieved from:

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