There is a growing need among managers to understand issues concerning organisational job satisfaction. It is quite tempting to regard job satisfaction as simply being ‘happy’ at work, but this topic is slightly more complex than we would normally expect. Let us start by defining job satisfaction and look into what it involves. One of the most common definitions for job satisfaction came out in 1976 from an American psychologist named Edwin Locke. As he put, it is simply “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experiences”. In other words, workers draw on their perceptions and emotions to evaluate jobs in some degree of favour or disfavour.
A study carried out in 2015 by Professor Andrew J. Oswald from the University of Warwick revealed that happiness at work can increase productivity by at least 12%.
In turn, these internal emotional states guide individual's positive or negative evaluative responses to both their jobs and workplace. To this extent, job satisfaction can be regarded as the 'pains' and 'pleasures' associated with individuals' job experiences at the workplace. It essentially involves both job satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
Job satisfaction can increase productivity.
Many employers have started to recognise that a “happier” employee is more motivated and tend to perform better at the workplace. A study carried out in 2015 by Professor Andrew J. Oswald from the University of Warwick revealed that happiness at work can increase productivity by at least 12%. In this study there were three groups of individuals, whereby two groups were shown either comedy or neutral movie clips, and one group was given fruit, chocolates, and bottled drinks prior to complete a task. Productivity was measured by asking individuals to perform numeral additions of five 2-digit numbers during a 10-minute period. Correct answers were paid at a rate of 0.25 pounds sterling. Results revealed that performance was linked to happiness, particularly for the group that watched comedy clips.
Given these results, Professor Oswald made a case for a causal link between human well-being and human performance, particularly performance at the workplace. Obviously, there are factors which could mediate this relationship (i.e. salary, working environment, job benefits). However, being satisfied at work seems to be a key ingredient for increasing performance at the workplace, as well raising organisation’s overall productivity.
Several factors underlie job satisfaction/dissatisfaction and allow us to derive key benefits of satisfaction.
Employee satisfaction can bring a lot of benefits to organisations. For example, it can reduce task errors, minimise conflicts at work, and increase the business turnover and profitability. But why is this the case? Let us start by analysing the factors underlying job satisfaction at the workplace. An employee’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with his/her job can be the result of a combination of several factors. These may include salary and benefits, career development opportunities, relationships with co-workers, etc. Similarly, job satisfaction is also achieved through fulfilling a wide range of worker’s needs. For example, if we adapt Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to an Organisational context, workers would normally seek fulfilment of external necessities such as food, water, safety, security, housing, job security, pension, and medical care.
These key incentives must implemented by employers in order to supply employees with satisfactory benefits package. Additionally, job satisfaction can also be a product of the worker building a gradual sense of belonging to the institution where he/she works. This sense of community and acceptance at the workplace helps the worker to feel associated with both his/her work assignment and the organisation. But ultimately, happy and satisfied employees make a successful organisation.
What are the negative factors affecting job satisfaction?
We must realise that not all rules are written in a contract, and employees may expect things that were not necessarily discussed during employment negotiations. When it comes to identifying negative issues associated with employee dissatisfaction, two factors stand out the most. Firstly, one of the most common negative factors is poor communication. When communication between managers, supervisors, and co-workers deteriorates it puts the organization’s success in jeopardy, and strains relations at work. In this way, in order to promote effective communication between supervisors, management, and employees it is important to cultivate working environments which both promote a sense of fun outside daily organisational activities, and encourages treatment of people with respect and trust. In practical terms, this would involve managers engaging with their employees in problem resolution, goal setting, day-to-day operations, and decision making.
A lack of empowerment has a negative impact on job satisfaction.
Secondly, the feeling of lack of empowerment in at the workplace is also a ‘usual suspect’ when it comes to creating job dissatisfaction. In 2013, a study carried out by Dr. Sergio Fernandez from Indiana University found a positive relationship between job satisfaction and empowering employees with information about performance and goals. However, Dr. Fernandez also explained that empowering employees by offering them with rewards does not have an effect on job satisfaction, particularly when performance is defined in terms of outcomes and outputs. So far, managers, supervisors, and key stakeholders should foster both empowerment and good and effective communication at all levels within organisational settings.
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Satisfaction and motivation are inter-dependent and inter-linked.
People spend a large part of their life at work and understanding what makes them happy at the workplace is crucial. As previously mentioned, factors affecting job satisfaction also have both positive and negative effects on customer satisfaction, and ultimately on business profitability. But is equally important to understand what drives their satisfaction and what motivates employee’s actions and behaviour within organisational settings. Alongside our understanding of job satisfaction, we must also get an insight into how motivated individuals are at the workplace. We could argue that employee satisfaction and motivation are two important factors contributing towards the success of any organisation.
However, these two concepts can be easily misinterpreted and confusing. Quite often managers are led to believe that employee satisfaction is the drive behind action and behaviour at the workplace. They may also have the tendency to regard motivation as the product of the employee being happy within the working environment. Although in most cases job satisfaction increases motivation, in actual fact, the relationship between the two is a bit more complex. Both satisfactions and dissatisfactions about one’s job can also strengthen employee motivation.
Two different types of motivation can be distinguished.
Put simply, when looking at employee motivation we can identify at least two broad types of individuals; (1) the employee who is self-motivated, and (2) and the employee whose motivation is dependent on external aspects of the workplace and job. A study published in 2015, in the Journal of Management and Organizational Studies shows that workers who are self-motivated are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. These results are an indication that motivation is not always a product of job satisfaction, but it can also be its cause. Therefore, gaining some depth of insight into the dynamics of motivation can also help managers identify ways in which they can promote self-motivation among workers, and in this way increase employee performance in the workplace, minimise absenteeism, and ultimately maximise the organisation’s profitability.
Why are job satisfaction and motivation important?
So far, we have talked about how happiness at the workplace is a key to organisational success. We have also had a look into how organisations can benefit from increasing job satisfaction, and minimize negative factors responsible for reducing employee satisfaction. The counterintuitive link between job satisfaction and motivation was also explored. So how do we tie this all up to create highly motivated and satisfied workers? It should be evident that the place where people work and spend most part of their daytime has a strong impact on their feelings, actions and thoughts. As a natural consequence of this there is a growing responsibility among managers to understand worker’s degree of motivation and how happy and fulfilled they are with their jobs. Recent evidence-based leadership theories and approaches put a strong emphasis on how to increase motivation and job satisfication.
When creating jobs and conditions that satisfy employees it is important to better understand what factors promote and influence job satisfaction and motivation. Similarly, when seeking their ideal worker, managers must both create fulfilling working environments and adopt the right motivational strategies. In practical terms this means creating new and more adjustable corporate policies, and gaining insights into employee motivations (i.e. self- and externally motivated). Additionally, managers must also have a good grasp of their organisation’s specific performance needs, in order to employ motivational processes suitable for the type of workers at that institution. Furthermore, organisational policy makers and leaders in general should structure jobs in order to give self-motivated workers a chance to express their need autonomy and competitiveness. A ‘one-policy-for-all’ approach can prove to be challenging, and in most cases can result in employee burn out, or voluntarily quitting the organisation.
References und further reading
Fernandez, S., & Moldogaziev, T. (2015). Employee empowerment and job satisfaction in the US Federal Bureaucracy: A self-determination theory perspective. The American review of public administration, 45(4), 375-401.
Locke, E.A. (1976) The Nature and Causes of Job Satisfaction. In Dunnette, M.D., Ed., Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 1, 1297-1343 Oswald, A. J., Proto, E., & Sgroi, D. (2015). Happiness and productivity. Journal of Labor Economics, 33(4), 789-822.
Raza, M. Y., Akhtar, M. W., Husnain, M., & Akhtar, M. S. (2015). The impact of intrinsic motivation on employee’s job satisfaction. Management and Organizational Studies, 2(3), 80.
Mauro has a genuine passion and interest in Psychology which dates back 20 years, during his late teens. He received his training as a Neuroscientist at the University of Oxford (St Cross College) where he studied for an MSc in Psychological Research.Mauro also has expertise in the areas of Organizational Psychology, Applied Psychology, Cognitive Neuropsychology, and Psychophysics.