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  • Spring 2016 ~ Job Satisfaction
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Introduction to Job Satisfaction:

Job satisfaction “refers to the degree of pleasure or positive affect that an employee has toward his or her job” (Locke, 1976 as cited in PSU WC, 2016).  The idea of job satisfaction is one of the most heavily researched areas of I/O psychology and there is a common assumption that an individual’s attitude plays a major effect on their work behavior (PSU WC, 2016).  Although understanding every factor that influences job satisfaction is complex and multifaceted, the three general categories that contribute to job satisfaction are job characteristics, social comparison, and disposition.  Job characteristics refer to the nature of an individual’s job and can be broken into five characteristics: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback (Hackman & Oldham, 1980).  Social comparisons refer to the degree of which an individual looks to make sense of the environment by how others react to, or their attitudes of, the organization (PSU WC, 2016).  Finally, disposition refers to an individual’s make-up, or the susceptibility of being satisfied or dissatisfied, regardless of the nature of the job or the social environment (PSU WC, 2016).  All three of these categories may be responsible at any given time for an individual’s job satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and there are many times that the three are interwoven together in a very complex manner. 

Case study:

Alison Jansen is a 3 year employee at one of the local branches of Trinity Bank.  She is currently in the position of New Account Executive.  For the most part, Alison has always had a positive attitude and has worked hard to be a model employee for the bank.  She started as a part time bank teller and worked her way up to the salaried position that she now holds. 

Over the past several months Alison’s supervisor, Chad Rivers, has noticed changes in Alison’s behavior.  Her normally perky attitude has become withdrawn and distant; she isn’t the social butterfly she had been known to be in the past, and she stayed more in the general population as opposed to being the first in line to help new employees or with new tasks.  He also noted that although her performance had remained consistent, she was taking more sick time than usual, and was tardy on multiple occasions. 

Mr. Rivers decided it was time to look into Alison’s change in demeanor to determine what, if anything, he could identify as correlating to her changes.  Chad knows that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, but he also knows that a lack of job satisfaction could relate to changes in job performance.  He began by looking at the job itself; had her position changed drastically recently, were demands of the job becoming unreasonable, had the structure of the department or her coworkers changed recently.  The next consideration was the social aspects of her position; in visiting with others in the department, he hoped to determine the general environment.  After that, he gave consideration to Alison’s general disposition; she was generally a happy person and -was involved in the organization and gave thought and consideration to her coworkers.  

Job Characteristics:

Job Characteristics are essential to maintaining high satisfaction levels with employment. There have been many contributions to the ideals that go into defining job characteristics, the most popular being the work itself, supervision, opportunities for advancement, pay, and co-workers (Smith et al.., 1969)


In an effort to address the changes in Allison’s behavior, evaluating her job characteristics would be helpful. Allison used to be a social butterfly but has become more withdrawn. This could be a sign that there are issues with her co-workers. If they are not getting along this could create an uncomfortable working environment for Allison. She was recently promoted to a new position, so there may be an issue. She might not have been interested in being promoted. The work of the new position may be causing her more stress, and there may be issues with the workload or tasks with the new job. As her supervisor, Mr. Rivers may need to provide her with more feedback on her new position. Lastly there may be an issue with the compensation package that was provided to her with the new position. Mr. Rivers really should sit down with Allison, and go thru the process of evaluating her job characteristics to help understand if they be related to her recent turn in attitude.

Social Comparisons:

Another variable that contributes or takes away from job satisfaction is “social comparisons” (PSU WC, 2016). This approach explains that “attitudes are determined, in part, by the attitudes of those around us” (PSU WC, 2016). If the people who work with us are positive and dedicated, we will tend to be positive and dedicated. If those around us are negative and lazy, we will often adopt these tendencies, essentially, people in any environment are always looking for social norms, and if the norm is being dissatisfied, it is easy to become dissatisfied.

This variable explains the organizational tendency to hand-pick, and closely monitors the person who trains new hires. The first person a new hire interacts with will establish the way the trainee perceives the company, and organizations want this to be a good first impression. This tendency also explains why it so important for leaders in the organization to set a positive example.

In order to determine if the social comparisons variable is causing Alison’s slump, management must determine if there is a negative climate in the office, or if there are negative attitudes amongst team members, and take steps to resolve the problem. This can be addressed through a candid conversation with Alison and the rest of the team.


Disposition is a variable that contributes immensely to job satisfaction. Disposition explains that “some employees are more prone to be satisfied or dissatisfied, in spite of the nature of the job or social environment”, (PSU WC, 2016) meaning, some employees will respond favorably to the world, while others respond unfavorably. Workers who view the world with a high rate of negativity are predisposed to have negative emotions such as anger, depression, and distress. On the flip side, workers with a positive disposition are enthusiastic and optimistic about life.

 This variable explains the organizational tendency to have a positive work environment that fosters support and tolerance among employees. It is important for Alison’s manager to understand why she has withdrawn from the organization and become less active with coworkers. Her previous positive disposition had shifted and it is important for job performance and satisfaction that her leader tries to help her regain her involvement and consideration for her coworkers.


Understanding job satisfaction is a very complex and challenging concept.  As we have outlined, job satisfaction “refers to the degree of pleasure or positive affect that an employee has toward his or her job" (Locke, 1976 as cited in PSU WC, 2016).  There are three main influences to job satisfaction.  First, job characteristics which refer to the nature of the job and can be broken down into five characteristics: skill variety, task identify, task significance, autonomy, and feedback (Hackman & Oldman, 1980).  Next, social comparisons which means the individual examines their environment trying to make sense of it.  Lastly, disposition explains how some employees are more prone to being satisfied or dissatisfied.  Each one of these three components may be responsible for an individual’s job satisfaction, as seen in our case study.

In our case study, we focused on Alison Jansen, a 3 year employee for Trinity Bank.  Her supervisor, Chad Rivers has noticed that her behavior has changed after a recent promotion.  Looking at her job characteristics, we pointed out that Alison could be having issues with her co-workers where they are making her feel uncomfortable.  Another job characteristic concern could be the promotion has created more stress due to learning new tasks and not receiving enough feedback so she can properly complete her new job.  The second variable, social comparisons, could be causing Alison’s issues through a poor environment in the office where she might not feel that she is being supported.  The last variable, disposition, helps explain why Alison is acting withdrawn from the organization.  Whatever the exact reason for her behavior, we know that Alison is struggling with new role and her supervisor Chad has several different ways of how he can isolate and address the issues.  Chad needs to start by having a conversation with Alison about a number of different aspects so he can better understand how to deal with her behavior.

Works Cited:

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

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

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2016).  PSYCH 484: Work Attitudes and Motivation, Lesson 11: Job Satisfaction: Do I like my job?  Retrieved on March 30, 2016 from:

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