What is job satisfaction?
Job satisfaction is defined as a description of how pleased or happy a worker is with their work environment and their job. Job satisfaction is essentially a scale of how satisfied an employee is with their employment, which includes not only their work environment but their duties, their fellow employees and the overall atmosphere that their job creates. Job satisfaction is often used alongside the concept of job design, which is designed to design jobs which will be theoretically more satisfying to employees. Job satisfaction is primarily the result of the hypothesis which is casually called the happy worker hypothesis. This hypothesis states that a happier, or more satisfied, worker will perform better than a worker who is not as happy or satisfied with their job. Job satisfaction is considered to be a major factor in both job design and performance analysis because it may have a large influence on how well an employee performs their job duties. If job satisfaction in an individual or among a group is low, it is theorized that performance by that individual or group will also be low. For example: If Employee A is not satisfied with their job as an assistant at a law firm, they may not perform to the best of their abilities which could have a major impact on the overall quality of their boss, their peers and the law firm itself.
How has job satisfaction been determined in the past?
The concept of job satisfaction is a relatively new one. It was not common until the early 20th century to take the considerations of workers and their feelings about their employment into account. Workers were not consulted about their feelings towards their job or their satisfaction with their job because, in essence, they were considered to be expendable—if they did not like their job, there were hundreds (if not thousands) of people who would be more than willing to take it. Because a majority of workers relied entirely on their jobs to feed their families and maintain a home, employees tended to ignore their own expectations of job satisfaction in favor of receiving their wages.
In 1924 through 1933, however, the Hawthorne studies marked a major breakthrough in the development of job satisfaction. Elton Mayo of the Harvard Business School conducted a variety of studies, surveys and on-hand research to determine whether or not working conditions such as lighting and pollution had any effect on the productivity of employees. These studies showed that when work conditions were positive, productivity was increased. And when work conditions were more negative, productivity was lower. The major working condition considered during these studies was lighting—when a working environment was well lit, productivity was higher; when it was dimly or poorly lit, it was lower. Although this study paved the way for future research on job satisfaction, it was considered flaw because the research for the study was typically done in person—that is, the workers were visibly observed by various officials, which is believed to have led to a general increase in productivity in some locations which may not have been related to improved or high lighting conditions at all. Still, this groundbreaking study allowed for job satisfaction as a whole to be developed. The productivity of the workplace was clearly linked to the quality of the workplace in which employees performed their duties.
What are factors which influence job satisfaction?
Today, it is believed that there are many factors outside of the major one studied by Hawthorne—lighting—that can affect job satisfaction. Environmental factors which affect job satisfaction are factors which are considered to be influenced by the work environment, employers, fellow employees and any other entity outside of the individual employee themselves. Common examples of environmental factors which can affect job satisfaction are: Working conditions, such as the cleanliness of the work environment, the general stress level of the work environment, the location of the work environment and what (if any) mental pressure is experienced during the work environment and how that is handled by employers; The personality of other employees in the work environment, such as peers and bosses; Human resources which are available to the employee; Requirements and expectations, such as what duties the employee is expected to be perform and how they are expected to perform or behave during their job.
Environmental factors are considered to have a major influence on job satisfaction because they can be relatively controlled by employers, job designers or other individuals involved with the content of an individuals’ job and work environment. When these environmental factors are positive, less stressful and more helpful, job satisfaction can be expected to be higher than when these factors are stressful, dangerous and negative. For example: An employee who works in an environment where they are subjected to a lot of mental stress, such as if they are expected to perform much work under strict and short deadlines, is likely to have lower job satisfaction than someone who works in an environment where they are not subjected to as much mental stress, such as if their deadlines are looser and they are given mental assistance by human resources or other on-site mental guidance. In this way, job satisfaction can be used to improve working conditions and, theoretically, improve overall performance and production by individual employees.
Another factor which may influence job satisfaction are individual or personal factors. These factors are experienced solely by an individual regardless of an outside or environmental factor. These personal factors include emotions, personal experience, and personality. These factors cannot be controlled by employers or job designers because they are reliant solely on an individual’s personality and experiences.