Job satisfaction is a "pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one's job or job experiences" (Locke, 1976, p. 1300). The degree to which one feels satisfaction with their job is affect primarily by three areas of factors; job characteristics, social interactions, and personal disposition . "Job characteristics" in this context describes the five most popular measures of job satisfaction; the work itself, pay, promotional opportunities, supervision, and co-workers (Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969).
In this case study a group of workers has been told they will lose their jobs at a future date due to outsourcing. Facets of the job, such as pre-existing problems relating to the organization itself, are reviewed. These workers were aware of, and in communication with, each other. The influence of this social dynamic is also reviewed. Finally, observations are made about the personal disposition of each worker and how this affected their job satisfaction.
Newco, Inc has been in business for 40+ years, underwriting and managing a variation of a life insurance product that serves and protects nearly a million policyholders. In 1996 Newco’s parent company was undergoing a wave of outsourcing whereby it was attempting to cut costs and optimize operations by moving noncritical functions to offshoring operations in India, Mexico, and other emerging markets. As a part of this initiative, an analysis of the creative and communications function was undertaken in order to determine whether or not outsourcing opportunities existed. It was determined that the group performed a significant amount of work that was not highly creative in nature. For example, the group was tasked with making very minor wording changes to individual documents based on state regulatory requirements. The individual leading the offshoring project determined that this kind of mechanical work could easily be accomplished by subcontractors under the direction of the domestic team. By removing this scope of activity from their workload, the team could spend more time focusing on skilled activities such as artistic design, and improving product brochure language to make it more compelling.
Genesis of the job satisfaction Issue
The manager of the Newco creative group had recently resigned, and was replaced by Tom S., an individual who was previously responsible for managing corporate events for the company. Tom had not been in place for very long, six months or so, when this offshoring project was initiated, and he had no active employee management experience other than directing the activities of external contractors that would occasionally help with some of these events.
The offshoring project generated recommendations to senior leadership regarding various company activities. The important point is that these were recommendations, and not developed into finalized plans of action. Tom, lacking in both management experience and good business sense immediately convened a meeting of all 16 creative employees on the team and informed them that they were going to be losing their jobs, and that all of their work responsibilities were going to be outsourced to teams offshore.
Understandably, the team members were extremely upset. Many were senior, having been with the firm over 20 years. This represented approximately 33% of the group. The balance of the group had tenure ranging from 12 months to eight years in length. The uproar caused by this meeting was quite loud, and human resources, caught wind of the situation very quickly, as well as other senior leaders within the company. Tom S. was reassigned back to managing events exclusively, and leadership of the team went directly underneath a vice president until a suitable replacement could be found.
Job satisfaction discussion for Newco Creative team employees
Locke defines and describes job satisfaction as “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experiences” (Locke, 1976). Clearly based on the above situation, the employees working on the creative team where experiencing and expressing low job satisfaction. One of the themes that emerged from the more senior employees was that they were wondering what kind of early retirement opportunities they might have as a result of the outsourcing of their work, while the less tenured employees were wondering what the severance benefits would be as they were laid off and their roles eliminated. Despite the fact that the vice president assured them that the possibility of outsourcing their work was simply a set of proposals, the employees understandably remained suspicious of the true underlying motives of the company leadership at that point in time.
To explain job satisfaction, three common approaches are discussed: job characteristics, social information processing (organizational characteristics), and dispositional (worker characteristics) . In terms of job characteristics, the characteristics of the organization that an individual works for is one of the primary determinants of job satisfaction (Pennsylvania State University (PSU) World Campus (WC), 2015). This fact-finding initiative regarding outsourcing was conducted in a very quiet manner, that is the intent of the organization was not broadcast to employees efforts undertaken to look at different cost saving methodologies, and ,likely, had the organization notified the employees of the creative team that these activities were underway, the creative team could have had an opportunity to participate in the initiative.
Next, social information processing is where employees look to other coworkers to make sense of, and develop their own attitudes about a work environment (PSU WC, 2015). In this case, the more senior employees were extremely frustrated with the company to begin with, because it had been acquired by a large multinational corporation, whereas before it had operated more as an independent smaller firm. These longer tenured employees had been suspicious of the motives of the multinational for many years, and their perceptions of these actions matched up with what their suspicions had been for many years. It was not difficult for them to make the leap that this was something that had been planned from the beginning, and in discussing this theory with the younger employees, thus propogating this belief, became much more suspicious of the company’s motives. Stated differently, the negative affect of the more seasoned employees affected the newer employees, and their attitudes about their work environment were "tainted" by the more seasoned employee's point of view.
Finally, in terms of dispositional factors, some employees are inclined to be satisfied or dissatisfied with their work no matter the nature of the job or that of the organizational environment that surrounds them (PSU WC, 2015). After the new manager assumed responsibility for the group from the vice president, he quickly realized that several of the longer tenured employees remained extremely dissatisfied with the entire situation despite the company’s and new manager’s significant efforts to reengage the employees of the group and find a path forward. After consultations with human resources the company determined that it would be best to offer an exit plan to some of those employees operating in a negative state as it was questioned as to whether they could be realigned from a positive attitude perspective. In this manner, dispositional factors were simply too difficult to overcome for some members of the group.
As the result of new management, the creative team had several good ideas around generating cost savings and cost saving opportunities for Newco. Those individuals exhibiting dispositional factors contrary to what could be deemed as success inducing attitudes were allowed to leave the company, and this opened up room for some of the lesser tenured employees to move up within the organization to replace them. New employees were brought in to the organization, and those individuals brought fresh marketing communications attitudes and perspectives, which greatly improved the work output products of the team. In the end, working collaboratively with the offshore exploratory group, the team saw the benefits of integrating the more mechanical aspects of their role with the resources of teams better suited for simplistic, repetitive tasks. As the exploratory team had surmised, moving much of this non-value added work offshore to a lower cost labor pool allowed more time for them to focus on refining their creative messaging and direction. This enhanced their job satisfaction from an organizational job characteristics perspective, and the overall satisfaction of several key team members then positively affected the attitudes of the remaining workers.
The initiatives put into place back then remain in effect today, with the offshore team as a foundational element and component of the overall team’s present success.
There is a great deal one could glean from a situation like this including the value of social comparisons in job satisfaction and dispositional factors. In the case study presented employees were given information that had not been finalized and fear of the result created a negative affect amongst the employees in relation to their job. It should be clear that at this point they were mostly highly frightened by a low facet satisfaction, job security. In the case presented there was no mention of employees feelings towards other facets of their job yet global satisfaction was down for at least two reasons: social comparisons and low facet satisfaction. In order to mitigate the effects of this news new management was put into place and statements were made by company assuring employees of the status of the situation. The result of this initiative did not appease all of the employees, particularly some appeared to have a disposition high in negative affect, resulting in continued negative feelings as a probable mechanism of social comparison. To reduce this factor in the climate culture, employees exhibiting negative dispositions were allowed to leave. As a result of this intervention, employees were much more satisfied with their jobs, and were not let go as previously feared. This example underscores the value of social comparisons as explained by (PSU WC, 2015) course commentary on job satisfaction, and the desire for employers to create a positive environment for new employees.
Fila, M. J., Paik, L. S., Griffeth, R. W., & Allen, D. (2014). Disaggregating job satisfaction: Effects of perceived demands, control, and support. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29(4), 639-649. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10869-014-9358-5
García‐Almeida, D. J., Fernández‐Monroy, M., & De Saá‐Pérez, P. (2015). Dimensions of employee satisfaction as determinants of organizational commitment in the hotel industry. Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing & Service Industries, 25(2), 153-165. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1660458677?accountid=13158
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.
The Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2015) Lesson 11: Job satisfaction: Do I like my job? Retrieved from: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp15/psych484/001/content/lesson11/lesson11_01.html
Smith, P. C., Kendall, L. M., & Hulin, C. L. (1969). Measurement of satisfaction in work and retirement. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.