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Definition: job satisfaction from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Degree of pleasure an individual derives from their work. Job satisfaction is difficult to define or measure. Organizational psychologists have studied the relationship between job satisfaction and performance, as well as the factors that constitute job satisfaction. However, the link between satisfaction and performance remains elusive. Lack of job satisfaction may lead to a demotivated workforce, absenteeism, and high staff turnover.


Summary Article: Job Satisfaction from The SAGE Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences

An employee's attitudes about various dimensions of his or her job. Attitudes are predispositions that are learned through direct and vicarious experiences and are composed of beliefs and thoughts, feelings and emotions, and intentions to act in a certain way toward an object, person, or situation. Researchers have identified over 20 dimensions of job satisfaction, including the work itself, the quality of supervision, relationships with coworkers, pay, status, and opportunities for promotion. Job satisfaction may be measured with a single question that assesses one's general satisfaction with the job, such as “Overall how satisfied are you with your job?” A second method summarizes responses to questionnaire items, measuring two or more dimensions of job satisfaction to calculate a global rating. A third approach assesses satisfaction with specific dimensions, using items or scales that measure each dimension separately.

The relationship between job satisfaction and employee performance has been debated for many years. It was hypothesized that satisfied employees would be more motivated to achieve higher performance and to increase productivity; however, early studies found inconsistent relationships between employee satisfaction and performance. These contradictory results inspired researchers to examine the causes, consequences, and situational variables that correlate with job satisfaction.

Frederick Herzberg conducted several studies from the 1950s through the 1970s investigating the causes of employee satisfaction and motivation. He argued that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposite ends of a one-dimensional scale but are separate attitudes with different causes and different consequences. According to Herzberg, job satisfaction ranges from high satisfaction to no satisfaction, and dissatisfaction ranges from high dissatisfaction to no dissatisfaction. Herzberg argues that job dissatisfaction is caused by extrinsic job characteristics (job context or work environment factors), such as poor working conditions, low pay, low security, and low status, while job satisfaction is caused by intrinsic job characteristics (job content) that stimulate and fulfill an employee's need for growth and self-actualization, such as achievement, recognition, responsibility, opportunities for advancement, and interesting and fulfilling work.

Herzberg labeled factors that are related to job dissatisfaction hygiene factors; these factors are less likely to motivate employees to work harder or produce more. Factors related to job satisfaction are called motivating factors because these factors may increase employee motivation to be more productive. Hackman and Oldham (1976) suggested that the degree to which motivating factors will motivate an employee depends on the strength of the employee's growth needs. If the employee's need for growth and self-actualization is low, the motivating potential of the motivating factors will be low; however, if an employee's need for growth and self-actualization is high, increasing the motivating factors will motivate the employee to greater performance.

The relationship between job satisfaction and performance is complex. Some argue that job satisfaction leads to higher performance; others argue that successful performance leads to higher job satisfaction. But research does not consistently support either view. Research does show that employees with higher job satisfaction are usually more involved in their jobs and more frequently display organizational citizenship behaviors (going above and beyond requirements to help and support others in the organization). Studies have demonstrated that more satisfied employees generally have lower rates of absenteeism and lower turnover than less satisfied employees. Studies have also shown positive relationships between employee satisfaction and organizational performance, as well as positive relationships between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

Possible causes of job satisfaction include (a) the extent to which the job fulfills the employee's needs, (b) the degree to which the job meets the employee's expectations about the job, (c) the extent to which the job helps the employee fulfill his or her instrumental values and achieve terminal values, (d) the extent to which the employee feels that he or she is treated equitably in comparison with others, and (e) the predisposition toward positive or negative affect. Individuals who have a tendency to view situations, themselves, and others in a positive way are found to have higher job satisfaction, while individuals who accentuate negative aspects are more likely to have lower job satisfaction.

Two questionnaires used to measure job satisfaction are the Job Descriptive Index and the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire. For more information, see Hackman and Oldham (1976) and Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman (1959) in the bibliography.

See also

Performance Assessment

Copyright © 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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