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The Facts About Job Satisfaction


Job satisfaction is an attitude that employees have about their work and is based on numerous factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic to the individual. Job satisfaction is important from the perspective of maintaining and retaining the appropriate employees within the organization; it is about fitting the right person to the right job in the right culture and keeping them satisfied.
Last Updated: 26-Nov-2013

Job satisfaction is an attitude that employees have about their work and is based on numerous factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic to the individual. Job satisfaction is important from the perspective of maintaining and retaining the appropriate employees within the organization; it is about fitting the right person to the right job in the right culture and keeping them satisfied. 1,2
Today's business environment is characterized by weak economies, rapidly changing technology, organizational re-engineering, shortened length of tenure, and outsourcing of peripheral business activities. The pharmaceutical industry is reflective of this environment. Under these circumstances, managers should concentrate on removing sources of dissatisfaction from the workplace in order to keep employees busy, productive, and satisfied. At the same time, employees need to take responsibility for their own satisfaction in their job. 2

*A theory of job satisfaction
Herzberg developed one of the earliest theories relating to job satisfaction in the 1950s. His "two-factor" theory emphasizes that there are factors in the workplace that create satisfaction (motivators) and those which lead to dissatisfaction if they are not present (hygiene factors). There are four motivators in the theory: achievement, recognition, responsibility, and advancement; and five hygiene factors: monetary rewards, competent supervision, policy and administration, working conditions, and security. The implication of the theory is that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not opposite ends of the same scale and that job satisfaction may merely be an absence of job dissatisfaction.2 Herzberg argues that it is necessary to have hygiene factors at an acceptable level simply to reach a neutral feeling about the job. The theory has not been without its critics from the perspective of both the methodology of the studies and the underlying assumption that all individuals behave in a similar way in the workplace. However, the theory is simple and has a common sense appeal3,4, and it supports the argument that today's manager should concentrate on removing the dissatisfiers from the workplace and concentrate on employing and developing the right people on the job.
*Personality: A key to satisfaction
That employees are predisposed to greater or lesser job satisfaction has been studied by Staw and his coworkers.2,5 Staw argues that individuals with a positive outlook on life, or who are optimistic, will have higher job satisfaction irrespective of the job or workplace they are in. It is an individual's personality that causes consistent behaviour in given situations and which lends itself to either a positive or negative outlook on life. Personality is a relatively stable set of characteristics that give rise to the patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving within a person's environment.6 One element of personality that relates to job satisfaction is optimism. Daniel Goleman7 discusses optimism and its relationship to an individual's outlook in life. He argues that optimism is an attitude that allows individuals to cope in the face of adversity, which prevents them from becoming apathetic and depressed. Further, underlying optimism is the concept of self-efficacy, which relates to an individual's belief that they can successfully complete tasks and meet objectives. A high level of self-efficacy translates to a strong belief in one's own ability.5 Thus, personality must have a strong influence on job satisfaction. It follows, then, that managers must be aware of the personalities of their employees and how they fit into the job, the work environment, and indeed the organizational culture. They must ensure that the work environment is conducive to bringing out the best in their employees' personalities by removing dissatisfiers from the workplace.

*What managers need to do?
Job satisfaction and its relationship to dispositional factors supports the notion that managers must concentrate on employing the right people for the organization in order to maximize on the possibility that employees will be satisfied. Satisfied employees will stay with the company for a relatively long period. Thus, they must concentrate on removing dissatisfiers from the workplace to enable employees to get on with their own satisfaction in an environment that is conducive to achieving both their own needs and those of the organization.

*The workplace and satisfaction
Harry Onsman8 discusses a retrospective Gallup study of one million employees in North America. This study showed that the elements in the workplace that contribute to a state of job satisfaction are all "group-level" items. Group-level items are those that relate to workplace relationships with colleagues, managers, and workplace friends. In the study there were twelve core elements which were important in job satisfaction and which had an influence on attracting and retaining the most productive employees. These are summarized as follows, in order of importance:

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the past seven days, have I received recognition of praise for good work?
5. Does my supervisor or someone else at work seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
7. At work, do my opinions count?
8. Does the mission of my company make me feel like my work is important?
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. In the past six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?
12. At work, have I had the opportunity to learn and grow?

A review of these elements confirms a couple of pertinent points. Firstly, referring back to Herzberg's two-factor theory, most of the elements can be related to the "motivators." Secondly, most of the elements relate to the workplace at the group level and not the corporate level, where managers have traditionally concentrated their efforts. Since the elements mostly relate to group-level issues, these are more easily managed if the employees working within the organization have values that fit with those of the organization. Moreover, it follows that there is more likely to be an environment of job satisfaction if these elements can be achieved through the individuals themselves. The corporate-level dissatisfiers must be removed from the workplace in order that individuals are not distracted by them and that they have the space to develop the work group-level elements.

*An illustration
That managers need to concentrate on employing the right person for the job (including management jobs) and the organization in order to facilitate job satisfaction can be shown through illustration. The Body Shop (Australia) is an example of an organization that employs people who fit the organizational culture and as a result enjoys high levels of job satisfaction among its employees. Nicholas Way9 reports that The Body Shop employs people whose values and personal goals are synchronized with the aims and ethos of the organization. The Body Shop staff "seem to fit the culture" of the organization. They make statements such as "this is where I want to stay" when discussing the experience of working for the organisation. The figures on staff turnover and tenure reflect that the organisation is successful in retaining staff.

*Satisfaction: A joint responsibility
In today's pharmaceutical industry, managers must ensure that they employ the right people for the jobs within their organization, a concept that applies to the entire organization and includes the managers themselves. At the same time, management must create a work environment that is free from dissatisfiers in order that employees can go about achieving the aims and mission of the organization that are in line with their own career goals and objectives. Managers should encourage employees to take responsibility for their own job satisfaction by developing an environment that allows them the scope to perform well. In this environment, employees need to accept that responsibility and take steps to build on their own satisfaction.
1. Ross, Emily. 2001. "Love the Job." Business Review Weekly, 23 [4]: 56-59.
2. Crow, Stephen M. & Hartman, Sandra J. 1995. "Can't Get No Satisfaction." Leadership & Organization Development Journal. 16 [4]: 34-38.
3. Mitchell, Terence R., Dowling, Peter J., Kabanoff, Boris V. & Larson, James R. 1988. People in Organizations: An Introduction to Organizational Behavior in Australia. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.
4. Knowles, Michael C. Organization Behavior: Changing Concepts and Applications. Sydney: Harper & Row.
5. Ivancevich, J., Olekalns, M. & Matteson, M. 1997. Organizational Behavior and Management. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.
6. Huczinsky, Andrzej & Buchanan, David. 1991. Organizational Behavior, an Introductory Text. London: Prentice Hall.
7. Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. 1995. London: Bloomsbury.
8. Onsman, Harry. 1999. "The Secret of a Happy Office." Business Review Weekly. 21 [22].
9. Way, Nicholas. 2000. "The Kings of Culture." Business Review Weekly. 22 [13]: 100-104.