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Attitudes/Job Satisfaction

October 10, 2012

When asked how satisfied with your job you are, you may base your response on the level of enjoyment you receive from the work or how much you connect with your co workers.  However, job satisfaction goes even deeper than that.  Evaluating a summation of job facets is often a good way to rate overall satisfaction.  For example the nature of the work, supervision, present pay, promotion opportunities, and relations with co-workers all help determine overall satisfaction.  Jobs that provide training, variety, control, complexity, and mentally stimulation tend to satisfy most employees.  Social context also plays a substantial role in rating of satisfaction.  Feedback, social support, interdependence, and interaction with co-workers outside the workplace are strongly related to job satisfaction.  One of the most common misconceptions regarding job satisfaction is that money will create this overall satisfaction.  This is wrong.  While it is true that money does motivate, what motivates us is not necessarily the same as what makes us happy and satisfied in the workplace.  Job satisfaction is more of an internal feeling.  It is an attitude.   Being an attitude, the first component of job satisfaction is cognition, or an evaluation of the situation.  This might be a statement like, “My boss is rude.”  Evaluative statements set the stage for the affective component of an attitude, which is the emotion or feeling linked with this evaluation.  This would be a comment like, “I am offended by my boss’s rude actions in the workplace.”  Ultimately, this leads to behavior, intended actions resulting from your feeling toward someone or something.  An example would be, “I am going to seek employment in another division and report my boss’s inappropriate conduct.”  Therefore, attitudes people hold, such as job satisfaction or dissatisfaction, determine what they do.  Below we discuss some of the behaviors that tend to accompany job satisfaction.  Employees are the foundation of an organization.  Although the amount of customers and clients seems to be the driving force behind organizational success, it is the employees that ultimately generate the business and drive the company internally.  Thus, keeping the employees happy will bring many positive outcomes.

Job Satisfaction and Job Performance

It is clear that the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance is complex.  For many years, organizational researchers have put a considerable amount of work into demonstrating how the two are positively related: a happy worker is a good worker.  When employees are satisfied with their salaries, company benefits, and working environment, there is a much higher possibility that he/she will express gratitude and loyalty through productivity and work ethic.  We related this to the “get what you give” approach.  If employees are treated fairly, given incentives such as favorable company benefits, and inspired by the variety of work, they will be more inclined to perform well on their tasks.  Because they are satisfied with their job, they will want to maintain their job performance in order to keep the job.  However, this scenario can also be reversed.  If an employee is unsatisfied with how their boss treats them, how they interact with co-workers, etc., he/she can have no authentic desire to represent the company in a positive light.  Below is a scene from the movie “Wanted” portraying a highly unsatisfied employee.  His disrespectful supervisor pushes him past his breaking point, causing him to explode and quit his job.  The recurring abuse and disrespect that this employee (Wesley) experiences from his supervisor results in poor performance, poor management skills, and poor relations with co-workers.  The supervisor should have recognized how her actions were affecting Wesley’s job performance and consequently his job satisfaction.  It was evident to our group that this particular company would require a great amount of change, or they would risk losing other once talented employees. (Disclaimer: there is profanity in this video clip)

Below is another clip from the movie “Office Space”.  This clip is a perfect example of an unsatisfied employee (Peter Gibbons) leading to what his supervisors call “laziness”.  Gibbons explains how specific examples of poor management and poor incentives in the company lead to his poor performance, and he even admits that his only goal is to “work just hard enough not to get fired”.  Therefore, he has no desire to be productive or to gain a positive reputation within the company.

Job Satisfaction and Turnover

When an employee is dissatisfied with their job or work environment they are more likely to quit.  If an employee goes to work each morning dreading the tasks of the day, the people in the office, or the work environment itself, they are less likely to stay in that job.  They are more likely to quit if they believe they deserve better management, benefits, co-workers, etc.  If they think there are other opportunities available elsewhere, they will leave willingly.  When an employee has high education and high ability (high human capital), they are more likely to quit if dissatisfied.  This turnover can lead to increased expenses for the company from increased training and hiring costs.  The cost of an employee quitting is 1.5 times their salary, an extremely costly consequence.  The following clip is from the movie “Joe vs. Volcano”.   In the clip, our team recognized how the employee, Joe finally decided to quit as a result of feeling trapped in a concrete cell with no windows, a buzzing fluorescent bulb, poor co-worker relations, and poor pay.  And he not only quits, increasing turnover, he takes matters a step further and acts out.  He explodes into a long awaited heating argument with his boss.

Job Satisfaction and Workplace Deviance

In addition to turnover, job dissatisfaction can lead to Workplace Deviance.  If unhappy, an employee may adopt a “get even” mindset. Whether it is tardiness, substance abuse, stealing at work, undue socializing, or simply just quitting, employees often act out due to dissatisfaction.  Thus, our team felt that employers should not invest much time in attempting to control the different deviant responses.  They instead should attack the problem at its core-the dissatisfaction.  Below is a clip demonstrating Workplace Deviance in the form of using work time to play a game on the internet.  The video clip is actually a video game commercial, but it uses a scene from “Office Space”.  At the end of the “Office Space” scene, a narrator speaks the line “somewhere else you’d rather be?”  Our team felt that this line appropriately summarized the innate feelings of employees that experience Workplace Deviance; they are acting out because they would rather be somewhere else besides work.  It is clear that the employee’s (Peter Gibbons) dissatisfaction leads to his deviant behavior and decrease in productivity.

Another scene in “Office Space” shows three employees responding to their high job dissatisfaction.   They not only quit, but they also steal and damage property from the office.  Although this clip is meant for comedic purposes, it is a good exaggerated demonstration of Workplace Deviance.

Our team ultimately felt that attitudes and job satisfaction were crucial components of the “bottom line” in any business, low turnover rates, low absenteeism etc.  In order to minimize job dissatisfaction from the get-go, we feel that it is important for managers to focus their efforts on a few theories during and after the hiring process.  Person-Job Fit Theory is the first, as mismatches between a person’s strengths, interests, and values and the company’s values and environment generally result in job dissatisfaction.  Next, we focused on the Social Learning Theory, which states that people construct their attitudes based on what they observe.  Referring back to our “Wanted” clip, Wesley’s supervisor’s continual abusive and violent attitude ultimately led to his abusive and violent explosion before he quit.  Had his supervisor been more aware of her attitudes, Wesley may not have constructed his attitude in the way in which he did that day.  After this, we explored the Violations of Psychological Contract, where expectations that the employee previously held were not met by his/her employer.  Finally, we felt that it was important for managers to pay close attention to Dispositional Theories, and note from the beginning whether or not a person may be inclined to feel satisfied or dissatisfied in general.


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