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Job satisfaction can be defined as the degree of pleasure or positive affect that an employee has toward their job (Locke, 1976).  There are different concepts within this theory that influence outcomes of satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the workplace.  These concepts include evaluative, cognitive and behavioral that affect other aspects of the job to include performance, absenteeism, turnovers etc.

Evaluative refers to the opinion of an employee about their job, whether they like or dislike the job.  Cognitive refers to the aspects of the job and their personal beliefs or feelings about the position, such as whether it is exciting or difficult etc.  Behavioral deals with how the employee conducts themself on the job.  Although the behavioral concept can be affected by the attitudes of the evaluative and cognitive concepts, it is not always the case.  Other reasons than feelings or beliefs can affect an employees behavior, such as a reason for re-locating that has nothing to do with the satisfaction of the job. 

The feelings that an employee has about their job can be put into either of two categories, global and facet.  Global satisfaction deals with general ideas of like or dislike of the job as a whole and specific feelings such as the opinion on co-workers or a task etc is a facet.

Although there has been research into what creates a motivated and satisfied worker, there is no clear answer to that question.  There are several variables that contribute to the overall satisfaction or dissatisfaction of a worker that may influence their feelings and behavior.  Some of these variables include job characteristics, social comparisons, and disposition.

Research on job characteristics have revealed that job satisfaction is clearly determined by the nature and characteristics of jobs (Spector & Jex, 1991). Social comparisons is pretty much determined by attitudes around us and even helps us be satisfied with out jobs if our co-workers are satisfied with their jobs (Jex & Spector, 1989). Disposition is the employees overall take on life, research has shown that employees with a positive disposition are more satisfied with their jobs than employees with a negative disposition( (Levine & Stokes, 1989).

The case study that follows will illustrate an employee's experiences during a company merger and how that affected change in job satisfaction.  J characteristics and social comparisons that were present will be elaborated on and exposed to show change and effects during the process of the merger. 

Case Details

Company ABC

Company ABC was previously owned and operated as a “mom and pop” organization. The company successfully completed 20 years in operation and had a staff of around 10 employees working, all of whom were physically located in Philadelphia, PA. There was a strong sense of vision for the company, and all employees were fully committed to the vision and the owners of the company. In 2008, the smaller company was purchased by Corporation XYZ. One year later, Corporation XYZ fully integrated the smaller company, closing their headquarters and relocating them to Washington, DC. All employees were offered the opportunity to relocate to Washington, DC. Those who had been employed longer than two years with Company ABC were offered the opportunity to stay with Corporation XYZ and work from home. Those employees with less than two years of service were offered the opportunity to relocate or they were given a comprehensive severance package.

Company CDE

Company CDE was previously owned and operated as a “mom and pop” organization, as well. The company successfully completed 12 years with operations in Chicago, IL; however, all employees were originally hired under the auspices that they could work from home. Therefore, employees for Company CDE were scattered throughout the United States all working from home. In 2009, the smaller company was purchased by Corporation XYZ. One year later, Corporation XYZ fully integrated the smaller company. Since all employees previously worked from home, Corporation XYZ allowed them to continue their work from their current locations. Therefore, all former employees of Company CDE who chose to stay with Corporation XYZ during the integration, all currently work from home throughout various locations within the USA.

Corporation XYZ

Corporation XYZ has had more than 40 + years in student educational travel. Company ABC & CDE were acquired between the years of 2008 and2009 in order to revamp Corporation XYZ’s University division. There were a total of 4 employees who relocated to Washington, DC under the acquisition of Company ABC. In 2010, Corporation XYZ hired a total of 15 additional employees all headquartered and located in Washington, DC to complete the integration of their University division.

During this process, a new Vice President was appointed to oversee Corporation XYZ and to ensure that all employees under the acquisition were satisfied with the company.  During the time periods of 2010 – 2011, the new Vice President worked extremely hard to push for the success of the integration by reducing account loads for all employees, creating a sense of teamwork that previously had not existed, providing feedback to all employees, and also extending autonomy within the position by allowing employees the opportunity to work from home one day per week if needed.

Connection to the Theory

During the time the employee was employed by Company ABC, they had low global job satisfaction due to low facet job satisfaction with a number of job characteristics. First, the employee was dissatisfied with management. The employee describes the former supervisor as a "micro-manager" who did not solicit input from employees. Likewise, the employee did not receive positive feedback from the supervisor. In addition, the employee was responsible for 35 accounts, as well as their own accounting. In particular, the amount of work demanded was felt by many to be an unrealistic expectation due to the time, skills and abilities required to be successful. The employee also notes the rigidness of the company over work hours, describing an experience when all employees were required to attend work during a snowstorm or else be terminated. All of these job characteristics were experienced by the entire staff and therefore lend themselves to social comparison, finally resulting in low job satisfaction.  

In regards to Job Satisfaction theory, the "micro-management" of the employee's job reduced autonomy and increased dissatisfaction with management, thus reducing satisfaction (PSU, 2011, L11, p. 4). Additionally, employees were responsible for 35 accounts, which was perceived as unmanageable. This resulted in a perceived undesirable workload (PSU, 2011, L11, p. 4). Likewise, the inflexibility of Company ABC's management led to a rigid work schedule, which the employee felt was unrealistic. Prior to the merger Company ABC suffered an annual turnover rate of 50% and performance and attendance also suffered. Finally, the employees commiserated with each other over these negative experiences under Company ABC, and as a result of social comparison (i.e. I am similar to this other employee, and they are not satisfied with this experience, therefore, neither should/am I.) further reduced the employee's job satisfaction (PSU, 2011, L11, p. 4).

Transitioning to the new Corporation XYZ resulted in increased job satisfaction. When the Vice President of Corporation XYZ took over, he stressed the need for flexibility and autonomy within the position by allowing employees to work one day from home and also set their schedule as needed as long as the work was being completed. The flexibility in scheduling has reduced absenteeism. The autonomy and teamwork that the VP has focused on cultivating with the employees appears to have increased task significance as well as task identity, as the employee can now have greater input and feedback on projects, as well as collaborate with the team to see the project through to completion (Hackman & Oldham, 1976, 1980). Likewise, the task feedback from Company XYZ likely increased employee's satisfaction and performance (Kerr & Jermeir, 1978). Additionally, there was stronger institutional support from other divisions within Corporation XYZ as it was a well-established company. New employees now had access to an accounting, finance, and administrative departments who could help ease their work load by assisting in the completion of projects. The reduction in workload likely lead to greater increases in job satisfaction and higher performance, though the two may be unrelated to each other and more likely related to reduced workload (PSU, 2011, L11, p. 5). Additionally, these fellow employees were positive about the corporation, thus changing and shifting the social comparison from negative to positive. Interestingly, a year after the merger, turnover has been 0%. 

Further Research

Although the employee feels much more satisfied with their job as a result of the merger and consequently the changes in job characteristics, there are additional strategies the Company XYZ may focus on to improve job satisfaction...

An additional consideration for future research would include conducting a longitudinal study of affective disposition (overall life satisfaction) and job satisfaction throughout the merger. In this time-series model, researchers and managers could analyze if the employee(s) is/are generally satisfied with their life, and how life satisfaction ratings correlate with job satisfaction ratings throughout phases of the merger. Research has demonstrated that affective disposition is stable across careers throughout one's life (Judge, 1993; Levin & Stokes, 1989).   Comparing this data to data of job characteristics and job satisfaction ratings would reveal the key variables which influence job satisfaction throughout a merger.


Job satisfaction is an outcome derived from the overall variables that contribute to this theory.  Each variable builds on to the next and are individual in nature so one doesn't necessarily cause/prevent the other.  The outcome of concepts in the theory must be measured by the totality of all variables present.  In other words, an individual's positive global job satisfaction does not necessarily create a motivated or productive employee. 

The present case illustrated how job satisfaction can change due to job characteristics and social comparison. Although data on disposition was not available, it has been suggested that researchers and managers utilize a time-series approach to gathering data on the relationship between life satisfaction and job satisfaction in order to capture information on this important variable. Overall, although the employee in this case suffered from low job satisfaction at Company ABC due to mismanagement, low autonomy, schedule inflexibility and unmanageable workload, they now report high global and facet job satisfaction as a result of the merger with Company XYZ. In sum, under the new management of Company XYZ, the negatively perceived job characteristics and social comparison experiences were effectively reversed, thus increasing job satisfaction and improving performance, attendance and turnover rates. .


Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the Design of Work: Test of a Theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16, 250‐279.

Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1980). Work redesign. Reading, MA: Addison‐Wesley.

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.

Judge, T. A. (1993). Does affective disposition moderate the relationship between job satisfaction and voluntary turnover? Journal of Applied Psychology, 78(3), 395-401.

Kerr, S., & Jermier, J.M. (1978). Substitutes for leadership: their meaning and measurement. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 22, 374-403.

Levine, I., & Stokes, J. P. (1989). Dispositional approach to job satisfaction: Role of negative affectivity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 752-758.

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: Rand McNally. 

Pennsylvania State University, (2011) Lesson 11: Job Satisfaction:  Do I like my job?  Pennsylvania State University.  Retrieved online at:

Spector, 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.

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