Job satisfaction is the extent to which people like or dislike their jobs. People vary in how much they like their jobs, even when the hold the same job with the same job conditions. This means that satisfaction is as much determined by the individual as by the job. But why should organizations care about it, in other words why is job satisfaction important?
What Personal Characteristics Link to Job Satisfaction?
Some people are satisfied with life and with their jobs, whereas others might be constantly complaining. There are some basic personality differences that contribute to job satisfaction. For example, people who are high in the trait of neuroticism have a tendency to be anxious and dissatisfied with many aspects of life. Such individuals might be dissatisfied with a job that others find satisfying. This doesn’t mean that such individuals are incapable of being satisfied, but rather they are harder to please.
Age has a connection to job satisfaction. A common pattern is for young people entering the workforce to be highly satisfied at first (a honeymoon period), but as the initial excitement and novelty wears off, satisfaction will decline and remain somewhat lower. As they become accustomed to the workplace after several years, job satisfaction will rise with time. Although much has been written about gender issues in the workplace, most studies find little connection with job satisfaction—men and women are generally equally satisfied with their jobs.
What Job Conditions Link to Job Satisfaction?
There are many aspects of the job that are linked to job satisfaction. These include
- The nature of the job itself, and the specific tasks people do. How well tasks match a person’s abilities and interests is important.
- Leadership, and how well supervisors treat their employees. Do leaders provide support and encouragement? Are they nasty and abusive?
- Fair treatment by the organization. Are their policies and procedures for rewards fair to everyone?
- Relationships between employees and peers. Do they get along or is there conflict?
- Compensation and rewards. Do employees feel they are adequately paid for their efforts.
Links to Important Outcomes
Having employees who are dissatisfied with their jobs can be damaging to employees and organizations. Having dissatisfied employees is linked to
- Turnover—satisfaction is an important aspect of employee retention.
- Withdrawal from work. Individuals who are dissatisfied are likely to avoid work by coming to work late, leaving early, or calling in sick.
- Low motivation—it is hard to be fully engaged and motivated when you dislike your job.
- Low customer satisfaction. Unhappy employees can lead to unhappy customers.
How Can Job Satisfaction Be Improved?
The first step in raising job satisfaction is to identify the issues that are linked to dissatisfaction. Many organizations will survey their employees to determine how they feel. Periodic surveys, often annually, can help establish benchmarks for comparison. But merely surveying employees is not enough. Once issues are identify with a survey, action is required. This can involve some direct steps to improve the workplace, such as making sure people’s abilities match the requirements for the job, and that supervisors have good leadership skills.
A more extensive approach is called survey feedback in which a survey is conducted of employee satisfaction. Results are compiled into a report that is provided to employees for reflection. Representatives of employee groups will meet with management to discuss an action plan to address issues uncovered in the survey. That plan is then carried out, with a follow-up survey conducted to see if job satisfaction improved.
One thing to keep in mind is that merely surveying employees is not enough, and it can be counterproductive if employees provide feedback when no action is taken. Organizations should not start a survey effort without a commitment for addressing at least some of the feedback. This does not mean that every employee complaint must be fixed, but action needs to be taken on at least a few issues to show that management is willing to address concerns. In most organizations there are relatively inexpensive actions that can be taken to both improve the organization and employee job satisfaction.