The causes and effects of job satisfaction

From the perspective of research and practice, job satisfaction has received significant attention from the fields of management, social psychology, and practical operations in recent years. Formally defined, job satisfaction is a psychological disposition resulting from one’s tasks as well as attitude to the physical and social conditions of the workplace. Meanwhile, it also indicates the degree to which employees’ expectations are fulfilled (Wood, J. M., 2013, p. 60). Today, as business faces tough economic conditions, employee satisfaction is still crucial to the success and competitiveness of any organization due to the correlation between satisfaction and employee behaviour.

A high rate of job satisfaction is directly related to a lower turnover and absenteeism rate. Nonetheless, Rynes, Colbert, and Brown (2002) indicated in a study of HR professionals, the major practitioner knowledge gaps in this area are: the causes of employee attitudes and the results of job satisfaction. Thus, managers should gain a more in-depth understanding of the importance of job satisfaction and take actions to improve job satisfaction levels.

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This literature review examines the causes that may influence job satisfaction and the effects related to it with the view to make recommendations on how managers and employees can address factors of job satisfaction for greater productivity outcomes. The first section of this paper will present three factors affecting job satisfaction including dispositional influences, cultural influences, and work situation influences. This will be followed by a focus on the consequences of job satisfaction in three areas, such as job performance, life satisfaction, and withdrawal behaviors.

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There are a variety of research studies that indicate that disposition or personality and job satisfaction have a deep relationship. Staw and Ross (as cited in Saari & Judge, 2004) in 1985 demonstrated that the job satisfaction of scores of employees have been stable over time, even when they change jobs or organizations. This viewpoint was supported by a study by Arvey, Bouchard, and Segal where they found that job satisfaction is associated with the genetic components. According to their research finding, approximately 30% of the observed variance in general job satisfaction was due to genetic factors, such as general intelligence, information processing, personality dispositions, psychological interests, and attributes (Arvey, Bouchard, Segal & Abraham, 1989, p. 187). Similarly, Seahore et al. (as cited in Zhu, 2013) assert that individual factors (demographic characteristics; characters) can be antecedents for job satisfaction. Therefore, it seems reasonable that dispositional factors might influence the manner in which employees respond to their work contexts.

It is increasingly accepted that culture or country might have effects on employee attitudes. In particular, with the continued globalization of organization, HR practitioners have to address new challenges about cross-cultural organizational and human resources issues (Saari, L. M., & Judge, T. A., 2004, p. 397). The most useful framework to understand differences in job attitudes is cultural dimensions of Hofstede in cross-cultural work contexts. According to Hofstede (Najera, 2008) the way people in different counties perceive and interpret their world varies along four dimensions: Small vs. Large Power Distance, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Masculinity vs. Femininity, and Uncertainty Avoidance. In addition, Jackoson (2002) argued that Hosfstede’s four dimensions also help people recognize the importance of culture which in turn influences how employees are viewed and valued across countries/cultures.

Apart from disposition and culture, the work situation also might have impacts on the job satisfaction, for example its pecuniary aspects, such as pay, and its non-pecuniary aspects, such as the nature of the work undertaken. Contrary to some commonly held practitioner beliefs, the nature of the work itself is the most notable situational effect on job satisfaction, which is often called “intrinsic job characteristics” (Saari, L. M., & Judge, T. A., 2004, p. 397). Previous research founded that the nature of work itself is regarded as the most important job factor in general when employees are asked to evaluate different facets of their job.

For instance, a study of Kovach (1995) examined that interesting work was ranked the most important job attribute. Therefore, the nature of the work situation is not only a cause of job satisfaction but also related to outcomes like employee retention. Conversely, Sutherland (2013) noted that some studies identify job characteristics as the determinant factors of job satisfaction may be empirical. According to Sutherland, job satisfaction may differ across employment status groups such as the self-employed and those in waged work.

A second major manager or HR practitioner knowledge gap is in the area of understanding the results of job satisfaction. Laxmikant (2013) argued that employee’s behaviour would affect organizational operations according to the employee’s score of job satisfaction or dissatisfaction. In other words, job satisfaction can be expressed through positive behaviour and job dissatisfaction through negative behaviour.

Researchers have found positive linkages between work attitudes and individual performance outcomes. Based on 7,939 business units in 36 companies, Harter, Schmidt, and Hayes (2002, p. 268), used meta-analysis to examine the relationship between job satisfaction and the business-unit outcomes. They suggested that changes in management practices that increase employee satisfaction might increase business–unit outcomes. In addition, Yalabik, Popaitoon, Chowne, and Rayton (2013) noted that work engagement mediates the relationship from job satisfaction to job performance. Similarly, Judge, Thoresen, Bono, and Patton (2001) found that job satisfaction is a predictor of job performance, and the relationship is even stronger in terms of professional jobs on a basis of comprehensive review of 301 studies.

As an emerging area of study, there are three possible relation forms between job satisfaction and life satisfaction: spillover, segmentation, compensation (Saari, L. M., & Judge, T. A., 2004, p. 398). According to the national sample of U.S. workers, 68% were the spillover group, 20% in the segmentation group, and 12% in the compensation group (Saari, L. M., & Judge, T. A., 2004, p. 398). Thus, most American employees’ job satisfaction spills over into the life satisfaction and vice versa. Similarly, it is also possible that one’s life satisfaction might spill over into job satisfaction. Therefore, to some extent, job satisfaction and life satisfaction can be affected by each other. Additionally, the negative job satisfaction can spill over into employee’s psychological well-being. Agarwal and Sharma also asserted that the job satisfaction and psychological well-being have a strong relationship in the hospital workplace on the basis of statistical analysis.

Job satisfaction is also related to turnover, absenteeism, and other withdrawal behaviours. There is a great deal of research findings that has shown that dissatisfied employees are more likely to quit their jobs or have higher absentee rates than satisfied employees. In 1997, Spector did a study of 390 male college lecturers who had been out of college and working for some years. This study identified five satisfaction profiles: generally satisfied, non-work compensations, work compensators, materially dissatisfied, and generally dissatisfied. The finding of this research indicated that the generally satisfied employees (high in both work and non-work factors) were more likely to remain with their present job, however, the work compensators (generally dissatisfied in both work and non-work activities) were more likely to leave their present job due to dissatisfaction with the work (Laxmikant, 2013).

Consequently, Kosteas (2011) argued that promotions can serve as an important mechanism for employers to keep their workers satisfied and to reduce turnover. There is also a small strong relationship between job satisfaction and absenteeism. Drakopoulos and Grimani (2013) asserted that job satisfaction has been identified as one of the factors influencing the motivation of employee to work attendance. Workers who are dissatisfied with their jobs attend less
regularly; they are absent more often than those who are satisfied.

Rio Tinto is a good case to demonstrate that how job satisfaction can make sense within an organisation. Across Australia, there are almost 2000 Indigenous people by Rio Tinto – more than any other company in the nation. As most of the Rio Tinto work in Australia is located in remote area, it is crucial to acknowledge the demography and culture characteristics. However, at the beginning of employing Indigenous workers, Rio Tinto faced many challenges, such as workplace diversity, compensation and benefits, training and development. In order to respond to these challenges positively, Rio Tinto created a classroom called “Fairyland” in which new employees are prepared, encouraged and supported for work.

In the centre, Rio Tinto provides a variety of assistance programs. For example, they give advice for troubled trainees how to deal with personal crisis, and support those who must travel so far to complete their TAFE training. This approach has led to an 85 success rate in terms of those new Indigenous employees who participate in program and remain with the company (Schermerchorn et. al., 2014). As mentioned above, management practices of Rio Tinto make efforts to improve its employee satisfaction from both culture and work situation areas, such as ongoing assistance, cultural awareness training, and working skills training, which consequently reduce the turnover and absenteeism rate, and ultimately reduce the labour costs of organisation.

Managers might focus on two areas to improve job satisfaction: how employees are treated and the content of their work. In particular, HR practitioners need to take precautions to ensure the satisfaction of employees and be more cautious during the recruiting and selecting processes. The HR practitioner can use sound selection methods and ensure an appropriate match between employee and job in order to enhance job satisfaction. Moreover, for organizations operating in more than one country, HR practitioners can consider survey data by country, which may help improve job satisfaction. Lastly but importantly, the HR practitioner is required to link employee attitude (job satisfaction) to business outcomes, as well as identify strategies for action.

Though there is a large quantity of research findings available on this topic, there are still some limitations that should be acknowledged. Scheid (2011) critically argued that the majority of the qualitative research has not been verified by qualitative data. In addition, different facets correlating with job satisfaction possess varying degrees of importance for employees. Therefore, the relationship between job satisfaction and performance might be elusive without sufficient qualitative data supporting it. These issues are very complex and have simply not been fully explained by researchers.

In conclusion, in studies on the causes and outcomes of job satisfaction, scholars presented different opinions from various perspectives. However, job satisfaction is the employee attitude that is most often related to organizational outcomes. For an organisation, a clearer understanding of the role of job satisfaction might be helpful in pinning down areas that need improvement.

Reference list:

Agarwal, M. & Sharma, A. (2011). Effects of hospital workplace factors on the psychological well-being and job satisfaction of health care employees.Journal of Health Management, 13(4), 439-461. doi:10.1177/097206341101300405

Arvey, R. D., Bouchard, T. J., Segal, N. L., & Abraham, L. M. (1989). Job satisfaction: Environmental and genetic components. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74(2), 187-192. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.74.2.187

Drakopoulos, S. A., & Grimani, K. (2013). Injury-related absenteeism and job satisfaction: Insights from greek and UK data. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(18), 3496-3511.

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(2),
268-279. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.87.2.268

Jackson, T. (2002). The management of people across cultures: Valuing people differently. Human Resource Management, 41, 455-475

John Sutherland. (2013). Employment status and job satisfaction. Evidence - Based HRM, 1(2), 187.

Judge, T. A., Thoresen, C. J., Bono, J. E., & Patton, G. K. (2001). The job satisfaction – job performance relationship: A qualitative and quantitative review. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 376 – 407.

Kosteas, V. D. (2011). Job satisfaction and promotions.Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, 50(1), 174-194. doi:10.1111/j.1468-232X.2010.00630.x

Kovach, K. A. (1995). Employee motivation: Addressing a crucial factor in your organization’s performance. Employment Relations Today, 22, 93-107.

Laxmikant Mishra. (2013). JOB SATISFACTION: A comparative analysis. Social Science International, 29(2), 283. Najera, M. (2008). Managing mexican workers: Implications of hofstede's cultural dimensions. Journal of International Business Research, 7(2), 107.

Rynes, S. L., Colbert, A. E., & Brown, K. G. (2002). HR professionals’ beliefs about effective Human resource practices: Correspondence between research and practice. Human Resource Management, 41, 149-174.

Saari, L. M., & Judge, T. A. (2004). Employee attitudes and job satisfaction. Human Resource Management, 43(4), 395-407. doi:10.1002/hrm.20032
Scheid, K. (2011) Job satisfaction: What is it? Why is it important? How can you get it? Retrieved from:

Schermerchorn et. al. (2014). Management. Fifth Asia-Pacific edition.,
Milton, Qld : John Wiley and Sons Australia.

Wood, J. M. (2013). Organisational behaviour: Core concepts and applications. Milton, Qld: John Wiley and Sons Australia.

Yalabik, Z. Y., Popaitoon, P., Chowne, J. A., & Rayton, B. A. (2013). Work engagement as a mediator between employee attitudes and outcomes. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(14), 2799-2823. doi:10.1080/09585192.2013.763844

Yanhan Zhu. (2013). A review of job satisfaction. Asian Social Science, 9(1), 293.

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The causes and effects of job satisfaction. (2016, Mar 25). Retrieved from

The causes and effects of job satisfaction
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