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The concept and definition of job satisfaction

The concept and definition of job satisfaction

Job Satisfaction


The concept of job satisfaction, viewed through different lenses by various scholars, is defined differently. Greenberg and Baron (2008), for instance, viewed job satisfaction as a feeling that can produce a positive or negative effect toward one’s roles and responsibilities at work and added that it is important to understand the concept of job satisfaction as there is no single way to satisfy all workers in the workplace. Greenberg and Baron (2008) saw it as a positive feeling toward a person’s job. This concept, according to George and Jones (2005), is the combination of feelings and beliefs, which include the mental, emotional, and physical domains. Job satisfaction can also be defined as a worker’s emotional response to different job related factors resulting in finding pleasure, comfort, confidence, rewards, personal growth and various positive opportunities, including upward mobility, recognition and appraisal done on a merit pattern with monetary value as compensation (Robbins & Judge, 2007; George & Jones, 2005). Arnett, Laverie and McLane’s (2002) definition is summarized by saying that job satisfaction is reflected as an employee’s general affective assessment of himself/herself in the context of his or her job.

Definition of Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction has been defined in many studies. Cranny, Smith and Stone

(1992, p.1) define job satisfaction as employees’ emotional state regarding the job, considering what they expected and what they actually got out of it. In fact, an employee with low expectations can be more satisfied with a certain job than someone who has high expectations. If one’s expectations are met or exceeded by the job, then one is happy and satisfied with the job.

Weiss (2002, p. 174) cites Locke (1969) who defines job satisfaction as feelings of contentment derived from the appraisal of one’s job and the understanding that the job is assisting in achieving one’s goals. Job dissatisfaction is the unpleasant affections that one feels if one appraises the job as a barrier in achieving one’s values. Locke (1969, p. 316) states that three factors exist in any appraisal process of the job: the perception about the facet of the job, a value system, and an evaluation of the relationship between the perception and the value system. People have set goals and values in mind. If their job assists them in achieving those goals, they are satisfied. Robbins (2005, p. 80) defines job satisfaction as a set of emotions that one feels about one’s job. Smith, Kendall and Hulin (1969, p. 6) define job satisfaction as “feelings or affective responses to facets of the situation.” Smith et al. (1969) state that those feelings are caused by the difference between what is expected from the job and what is actually experienced, and comparing this difference to alternative jobs. Agho, Mueller and Price (1993, p. 1007) define job satisfaction as the extent to which workers are happy with their jobs.

The Importance of Job Satisfaction

Monetary payment is only one of many reasons for which people work. Schultz and Schultz (1994, p. 4) state that in a survey conducted by Quintanilla in 1990 in the United States, Germany, and Japan, 84% of the respondents indicated that they would continue to work even if they had no need for the money. The rewards for working go far beyond payment. Financial security, achievement, self esteem, and sense of belonging can contribute to the whole reward system that an employee may receive. If employees are happy with the outcome, they are satisfied with their jobs. If they are only partially happy, then they are only satisfied with some facets of their jobs.

Job satisfaction is a concept based on the premise that the happiest worker is also the most productive worker and that to people happy in their work, their job doesn’t feel as if it is work at all. Many variables make a difference in the levels of job satisfaction experienced by workers; some variables are found within the organization, some within the framework of the job itself, and others are inherent in each worker’s character and personality. Although there had been more than 12,000 studies published on the topic of job satisfaction by the early 1990s, job satisfaction is so important to both organizations and workers that there is still plenty of scope for more research (Franek and Vecera, 2008).

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Job Satisfaction Theories

Job satisfaction theories have evolved in a manner similar to motivation theories. As mentioned previously, content theories of motivation considered the same needs for human beings with no regard for personality differences. Process theories consider different individual cognitive processes. Some job satisfaction theories are also categorized under motivation theories such as two-factor theory, job characteristic theory, and high performance cycle theory. Franek and Vecera (2008) discuss three models of job satisfaction: situational model, dispositional model, and interactional model. According to Franek and Vecera (2008) the situational model proposes that job satisfaction results from job characteristics and that all people receive the same satisfaction from a job with certain job characteristics as defined by Hackman and Oldham (1980).

The Dispositional model on the other hand, suggests that the characteristics of people will determine their level of job satisfaction, and that the job itself plays no role in determining satisfaction. Studies that support dispositional model frequently use five personality factors. The core self-evaluation model stated by Judge, Locke, Durham, and Kluger (1998) narrows the scope of dispositional theory. The four core self-evaluations are self esteem, self efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism (Franek and Vecera, 2008, p. 63).

Two-Factor Theory. This theory suggests that human needs fall under two categories. The first category is the animal needs such as physiological needs and the second category is higher level needs such as growth. Those aspects of the job that are related to first category of needs are called hygiene factors and those aspects that are related to the second category of needs are called motivator factors.

Job Characteristic Theory. Hackman and Oldham (1976, p. 257) discuss their job characteristic model and explain five main dimensions of a job that lead to three psychological states resulting in some personal and career outcomes. Skill variety is the degree to which a job needs a diverse array of tasks. Task identity is the degree to which a job involves completing an entire work from the beginning to the end. Task significance is the degree to which a job is important to the life of other people in the society or in the organization. Autonomy is the degree to which a job gives freedom to the worker in scheduling and deciding how to carry it out. Feedback is the degree to which performing the job results in getting feedback.

Content Theories

The first theory of the content theories of motivation is Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs theory. His hierarchy of needs starts with physiological needs at the lowest level. At this level, the organism has the purpose of satisfying the most basic needs such as hunger. It means that if no need is satisfied, the organism tends to first satisfy the need of hunger rather than the need for love or security. But when hunger is satisfied, people tend to satisfy their other needs. The next level of needs to be satisfied is safety. Maslow (1943) states that infants and children demonstrate their safety needs while adults learn to hide it. Infants should feel that their parents and the rest of the world are reliable. If they hear a loud noise, pain or any irregularity, they react because they need to feel safe and have a routine in their life.

The second theory of motivation under the category of content theories is Alderfer’s (1969) Existence, Relatedness, and Growth (ERG) theory. Alderfer (1969, p.145) discusses the ERG theory and points out, “a human being has three core needs that he strives to meet. These needs include obtaining his material existence needs, maintaining his interpersonal relatedness with significant other people, and seeking opportunities for his unique personal development and growth.” Alderfer (1969) defines existence needs as physiological and material needs which are usually scarce resources, meaning that if an individual needs food, this food will be taken away from another individual. In work environment, pay is an existence need, and by giving a raise to one employee, another employee is deprived of a raise. The third theory of motivation among the content theories is the two-factor theory (Herzberg, 1968). Two- factor theory is also considered a job satisfaction theory.

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Studies on Job Satisfaction

Prediction models identified close correlations between job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Moon, 2000). Mowday, Porter & Steers (1979) conducted extensive reviews of the theoretical and empirical work done on organizational commitment (Reicher, 1985). Their findings supported a substantial linkage between satisfaction and commitment further supporting previously research findings of existing relationships between these variables. Satisfied employees tended to be more productive, creative and committed to their employers (Kaldenberg & Regrut, 1999). Other reviews of literature suggested positive and negative correlations in regards to consequences associated with job satisfaction. Workers tended to be less aggressive and defensive when job satisfaction levels were high versus more complaints, hostility and aggression associated with lower levels of job satisfaction (Chen & Spector, 1992).

Some studies directly linked satisfaction and quality of work (Murphy, 2004), however, others disagreed. Some studies argued that the link between satisfaction and productivity hinged upon the concept of happiness (Wright & Cropanzano, 2000). Satisfied employees tended to be more reliable to show up at work than dissatisfied employees (Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn, 2003), whereas resignation seemed to be more prevalent in dissatisfied employees. Ultimately, an employee’s decision to separate or terminate their employment (i.e. voluntary turnover) affected an organization’s ability to maintain consistency in productivity, cohesiveness within working units, increased the need for organizations to replenish dwindling knowledge pools (Pil & Leana, 2000), and ultimately unfavorably affected the image of the organization. Recent statistics on the continued drainage of experienced and knowledgeable workers included physician shortages anticipated reaching 20% of workforce, continual nursing and management shortages (Cooper, 2004), and a very poor financial bill of health for medical facilities standing to lose 50% of Medicare & Medicaid income (AHA, 2005).

According to Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, there was a widespread decline in job satisfaction that could be analyzed across age and income brackets. The survey conducted on a population of 5,000 households suggested one-fourth of the surveyed population only showed up at work to collect a pay check. Only 50% of the respondents were satisfied with their jobs and this was a decrease in satisfaction from 1995, when the percentage of satisfaction ranked above 60%. The aforementioned survey by TCB revealed the group with the smallest decline in job satisfaction was the 65 and older group composed of the largest numbers of baby boomers preparing to leave the workforce. Contrary to the preconception that this group was highly dissatisfied with their jobs due to increased technological advances and increased demands on productivity, the survey confirmed they were more comfortable perhaps because they were so familiar with the organization (OPM, 2005).

Literature suggested the best measurement of job satisfaction was the Job Descriptive Index (JDI). This tool had been heavily researched since the late 70s and remained a highly effective as well as valid and reliable tool. Vroom regarded the JDI as one of the more cautiously constructed measures of job satisfaction in existence. The demographic pairings in the JDI were hourly workers vs. salaried workers; male vs. female; and management vs. non-management. The longevity and refinement of the JDI since the 1950s had strengthened its validity as well as reliability. Literature revealed the revised JDI was utilized in the 1970s to examine relationships between gender and job satisfaction. This study was conducted on 480 state government employees of whom 154 were male and 326 female (Saucer & York, 1978). This study concluded men were more satisfied in all areas of job satisfaction with the exception of pay. Women trailed in each area in term of satisfaction.

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Another study conducted in 1993 on private and public section managers using the JDI revealed no significant difference in job satisfaction between the genders (Schneider & Vaught, 1993). The validity of job satisfaction and gender on the turnover decision may be debatable as may be the role of age. Over the years, older Americans comprised an increasingly larger percentage of employment in the workforce. Historically, life expectancy was in the early sixties and had evolved over the years to the mid seventies. Extended life expectancies could have a major impact on decisions workers made regarding employment. Many older workers had paid into retirement systems and 401K’s to guarantee a comfortable life after retirement. Many continued to work as long as there were no major health conditions. Some older workers conceded that their lives actually revolved around their respective jobs. This environment was composed of not only activities that they had participated in over the years, and in some instances, it was also the core of their social circle. This was not the case for all older workers, nevertheless, workers did tend to put in long hours and seemingly spend great amounts of time at the workplace in comparison to other personal activities.

Martin (2006, p.117) uses Pearson correlation test and finds that there is a moderate positive correlation between overall leadership and overall satisfaction. All of the subscales of the LPI are correlated with all of the job satisfaction facets of JSS except for the facet of operating procedures. An analysis of variance shows that there are no correlation between overall leadership and job satisfaction and demographics such as gender, education, or tenure. However, the facets of benefits and communication are statistically different based on gender. Also, the facets of benefits and operating procedures are significantly different based on education. Additionally, the facet of benefits is different based on tenure.

Chong, Unklesbay, and Dowdy (2000) study job satisfaction as perceived by managerial personnel and foodservice employees in hospital foodservice departments and use JSS in their research. Chong et al. (2000) mail letters to the managers of food and nutrition service departments of the 11 council of teaching hospitals in Missouri. Seven hospitals agree to participate. The sample population consists of managers and non managers. Managers are from foodservice group or clinical nutrition group and non managers are all foodservice workers. The survey has two parts. The first part is JSS with 36 items. Chong et al. (2000) state that they use JSS in their study, and not JDI or MSQ because it has nine facets , four more than JDI, which are the facets of fringe benefits, contingent rewards, operating conditions, and communication. Chong et al. (2000, p. 62) state that JSS is the only scale that has the communication facet and since their research involves “multidisciplinary or cross functional teams” they need to use JSS. Chong et al. (2000) also state that JSS has a simple wording; it is thorough, concise, and applicable to their research. The second part of their survey asks about demographic information including gender, age, education, employees supervises, and organizational position.

Chong, Unklesbay, and Dowdy (2000) receive 260 responses, conduct a descriptive analysis of job satisfaction, and find that satisfaction with the chance of promotion ranks the lowest among all three groups (two manger groups and one non manager group). In total respondents job satisfaction is above average. Chong et al. (2000, p. 65) find no correlations between job satisfaction and demographics among managers. The majority of non manger male workers are very satisfied with pay and nature of the work. Full time workers are more satisfied with fringe benefits than part time workers, and their satisfaction with immediate supervisor is different based on their age.

Sierpe (1999) conducts a quantitative study and uses JSS to measure job satisfaction of 119 librarians working at Bishop, McGill, and Concordia Universities, which are English speaking universities in Quebec, Canada. Sierpe (1999) states that many previous studies have used JDI or MSQ. JDI lacks the four facets of benefits, contingent rewards, operating procedures, and communication. Also, some studies questioned its validity. Sierpe (1999) selects JSS as the instrument for the study. Additionally, there are other studies using JSS, so the results could be compared, and JSS is already validated.

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Sierpe’s (1999) survey contains a demographic section in addition to JSS, and is mailed to all librarians working in the three subject universities. The demographic section asks about gender, age, overall experience, years of service at current institution, and if they have a tenure system in their library. A total of 81 valid responses are returned and analyzed. Sierpe (1999) uses SPSS v.6.1.3, and conducts a descriptive analysis. The results show that respondents are generally satisfied with their jobs except for the facets of communication, and operating procedures


The studies, books, and articles examined in this chapter focused on factors that relate to the topic of job satisfaction. This review of literature provides insights into the key elements of satisfaction as determined by other studies, examples of how other researchers have measured job satisfaction, and an understanding of why this work is important. The research shows that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are different dynamics. Dissatisfaction is not simply the absence of satisfaction. Herzberg et al. (1959) used the terms motivators and hygienes. Motivators are factors that contribute to satisfaction. Hygienes are factors that contribute to dissatisfaction. The literature documents numerous factors that relate to job satisfaction. Many researchers focused on factors related to the school’s organizational climate and culture. Others examined the personal factors that employees bring to work. Some researchers included both types of factors. Overall, job satisfaction is an important topic in organizational behavior. Businesses need to know how satisfied their employees are in order to be able to retain them, and improve the quality of their services.

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