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Organisational Psychology – Job Satisfaction and Job Affect

Answers the Question

What is the psychological responses (work attitudes) to one’s job that leads to job satisfaction

How it Began

Formal research began in mid-1930’s by 1972 over 3000 articles had been published specifically exploring worker attitudes.  There are three important assumptions that underlie the concept of attitudes:

  1. An attitude is a hypothetical construct
  2. An attitude is a unidimensional construct
  3. Attitudes are believed to be somewhat related to subsequent behaviour, although this relationship can be unclear



Work or job attitude is the middle component in a belief about aspects of the job – evaluation, the attitude itself – behaviour, intentions that follow the attitude.  This traditional model suggests that behaviours (including job performance) are largely influenced by job attitudes.  Recently, this traditional model has been questioned as being too simple and some more comprehensive alternatives have been developed.

The Job satisfaction-performance relationship is highly complex (Katzell, Thompson & Guzzo, 1992)
For example, the relationship may be limited by constraints on performance (e.g., group norms for performance, environmental variables such as the speed of an assembly line).  Other research has found a substantial amount of the variability in job satisfaction may relate to “trait affect”

Responses to one’s job have cognitive (evaluative) and affective (emotional) components.  Theories explaining how people find contentment and fulfillment with their occupations express the idea that jobs are perceived as not only a means of earning a living, but also as an important extension of a person’s identity, and, therefore, his happiness. People who have a high level of job satisfaction are observed as having a tendency to be more productive and become successful in their chosen careers.

Key Terminology

Job Satisfaction – multidimensional psychological responses to one’s job

Work Attitudes – certain regularities of an individual‟s feelings, thoughts and predispositions to act toward some aspect of his environment

In Brief

Affect theory

A person’s job satisfaction can depend on two factors: expectations that the individual holds about the job, and the realities of the job itself. The narrower the gap between expectation and reality, the more chances and individual will be satisfied with their  work. The Affect Theory also reasons that a person prioritizes one aspect of the job more than the other aspects, and that certain aspects can affect how satisfied they are.

Two-factor theory

This Theory proposes that two factors can satisfy and dissatisfy an employee in their job. The first factor are the motivational factors which encourage an individual to deliver better work performance, and as a result, attain satisfaction. Motivational factors include job promotions, bonuses, and public recognition. The second factor would be that of hygiene factors, which are not necessarily motivating in an of themselves, but would result in dissatisfaction if they were inadequate. For example; enough money to meet our needs, non-financial employee benefits, the company’s policies, and the overall environment of the workplace.

Dispositional theory

Focuses solely on the natural disposition of a person and states that an individuals personality is an important determinant of the satisfaction level the person gets from the job. From example, an introverted person who may be inclined to have a lower self-esteem may experience a low job satisfaction. One the other hand, an individual who has an internal locus of control and believes they are in control of their own destiny may have a higher level of job satisfaction.

Job characteristics model

The most job-focused theory of job satisfaction, this model lists five features of a job that can affect a person, three of which — skill variety, task identity, task significance — can affect an employee’s perception of how meaningful the work is. The fourth characteristic would be “autonomy”; the more independence an employee experiences, more feelings of responsibility will occur. The final factor is feedback or evaluation, which puts across how well an employee does his tasks.

What does this mean for Organisation Development

Organisational climate and job satisfaction are distinct but related constructs, and both appear to influence employees’ understanding of the work environment and their level of job satisfaction.

Employees with high job satisfaction do exhibit higher organisational citizenship behaviour, which ultimately does have positive effects on the productivity of the entire organisation.  Individuals in the organisation have certain expectations, and creating an environment where  these can be fulfilled, depends upon an individuals perception as to whether organisational environment suits their needs or not.

Line managers and human resource practitioners should be aware that different groups have different needs that can influence their job satisfaction levels and different perceptions of the organisation and that this impacts on their behaviour. Organisations that understand their employees and are aware of what they need go on to create an environment in which employees can thrive and be creative and productive – all characteristics of successful organisations.

Organisations that exhibit characteristics such as having a high degree of autonomy, providing opportunities for employees, nurturing relationships among employees, showing interest in and concern for their employees, recognising employees’ accomplishments and holding employees in high regard result in more satisfied workers.

  1. Focus on Structure, Identity and Human Relations which are positively related to the job satisfaction
  2. Promote the advantages of equitable treatment (organisational justice) of employees
  3. Promote the practice of delegation of power, greater involvement in decision making, capacity building and proper Rewards for good performance