Job Satisfaction Components

In order for an organization to be successful they must continuously ensure the satisfaction of their employees. Job satisfaction is defined as "an individual's reaction to the job experience" (Berry, 1997). There are various components that are considered to be vital to job satisfaction. These variables are important because they all influence the way a person feels about their job. These components include the following: pay, promotion, benefits, supervisor, co-workers, work conditions, communication, safety, productivity, and the work itself. Each of these factors figures into an indivdual's job satisfaction differently. One might think that pay is considered to be the most important component in job satisfaction, although this has not been found to be true. Employees are more concerned with working in an environment they enjoy.


Many theorists have tried to come up with an explanation for why people feel the way they do in regards to their job. Locke developed the idea known as discrepancy theory. This theory suggests that a person's job satisfaction comes from what they feel is important rather than the fulfillment or unfulfillment of their needs. A person's importance rating of a variable is refered to "how much" of something is wanted. Discrepancy theory suggests that dissatisfaction will occur when a person receives less than what they want (Berry, 1997). Here is an example of one such study done on athletes.

Another theory was developed by Lawler. Lawler believed that job satisfaction was driven by a motivational framework. This idea deals with how a person measures job satisfaction based on what they got verses what they feel they deserved. Satisfaction is determined by the difference between the exact amount a person received and what they expected. Therefore, dissatisfaction occurs when a person receives less or more than what was expected.

In order to put job satisfaction in an environmental perspective, Social Psychologist Bandura developed a theory know as the social influence hypothesis. This hypothesis describes a social effect where individuals want what they percieve others around them to want.
The last theory used to explain job satisfaction was proposed by Landy. His theory is known as the opponent process theory. He suggested that the primary reaction (the immediate emotional response) combined with the secondary reaction (the later emotional response) creates a stabilized equilibrium which results in job satisfaction.

Satisfaction Assessment

We have Locke, Lawler, Bandura, and Landy to provide us with theories on why an employee may be satisfied or not but it is obvious that we can not survive on theories alone. We must go straight to the source when regarding job satisfaction. The employees are the ones employers should turn to. Employees are the ones that give the necessary feedback in order for employers to know if people are satisfied with their jobs.

How should an employer measure satisfaction without making the employee feel uncomfortable? It is not considered tactful to confront an employee in person on how satisfied they are with their job. Thus, employers measure job satisfaction based on surveys. Satisfaction surveys provide feedback to the employer which could be beneficial to the company. There are many factors that need to be resolved in order to provide a helpful survey. But how valid and reliable are these surveys? One of the largest problems is how the surveys may be interpreted by the employees. The company must evaluate the questionnaires with certain confounding factors in mind. The surveys need to either be focused on the organization as a whole or just the components of the job itself. Another factor to consider is open ended questions versus questions with predetermined answers to choose from. Take a sample test here.
Four samples of job satisfaction surveys are as follows:

1) The Job Description Index
2) The Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire
3) The Faces Scale
4) Needs Satisfaction Questionnaire

The JDI, MSQ, and Faces Scale are considered closed questionnaires, since they provide various answers for the subject to choose from. The NSQ is considered an open-ended questionnaire. It allows the subjects to elaborate on their opinions regarding how satisfied they are with their job.

Incentives and Pay Systems

Included in a person's job satisfaction are the rewards for doing the job and performing it well. If a person is rewarded for high performance or stands to gain a reward for doing the work, he/she may find the job more satisfying. These rewards range from improved work environment (a corner office, a nicer chair), to higher security and more responsibility. Of all of these types of incentives, money is one of the few that we can quantify and measure. Due to the social influcence described by Bandura, money can often have a powerful effect on job satisfaction regardless of how important a motivator money is to that person.

There are several different ways that pay can be distributed among the employees and not all of the methods of pay involve simple pay checks! These systems can be divided up into three different catagories and reflect how the company is structured and managed.

The first catagory describes individual pay systems. The second involves rewarding employees for their hard work. Finally, the third catagory describes how employees can be payed as group.

In the catagory of individual pay, there are currently three major methods of payment. One of the most frequently used pay systems is the hourly wage. Employees take home a pay check that reflects how long they were there. Another common method is salary payment. A person who's salaried, gets paid for simply holding the job. As long as the job gets done in the end, everyone is happy. For simplistic manufacturing jobs, the method of paying by the piece is commonly used. If a person makes 100 widgets and gets paid $1.00 per widget, then at the end of the day the person takes home $100.

In the catagory of bonus, there are also three commonly used systems of pay: profit sharing, ESOP, and cafeteria style. Profit sharing is where the excess profits of the company are divided equally among the employees for their bonus. ESOP is a system that gives the employees stock in the company as a reward. Cafeteria style bonus system lets employees select their reward for hard work.

In certain situations where the structure of the company is less hierarchical, the employees are often payed as a group. The first method, co-op payment, takes the profits made by the employee owned company and distributes the profits equally. Similiarly, the Scanlon pay system takes the profits earned by the company and divides them in half, giving one half to the employees and the other half to the executives. The Lawler system divides the profits based on three measures. Hence, the pay of each individual employee differs. The first measure is based on what job the individual holds. The second measure is a factor representing the seniority of the employee or rises in the cost of living. Finally, the performance of the individual is evaluated and pay appropriated accordingly.


One of the results of pay incentives is the so called "golden handcuffs" situation. In a situation like this the individual is paid so much that he/she cannot afford to quit despite their job dissatisfaction. However, pay is not the only thing that affects organizational commitment.

In addition to pay, the employee may feel an affective factor that causes the individual to identify with the company, their goals, and the people who work there. In some cases a person feels that they can't quit because the social norms have forced them to conform to the ideal lifestyle. Thus it seems necessary to hold a 9-5 job, support their family, and in effect, "settle down".

Organizational committment is also a result of job satisfaction. The positive indicators of committment are productivity and health. The more satisfied an employee is with their job, the more they will produce and the healthier they will be. However, studies have also shown that in some cases, high production itself causes high job satisfaction.

The negative indicators of organizational committment include absenteeism, sabotage, and violence. These factors obviously indicate low committment towards the organization and low job satisfaction. Surprisingly enough, turnover (another indicator) is neither positively nor negatively related to organizational committment or job satisfaction.

Job satisfaction is an important variable to consider when evaluating an organization's success. In order for an organization to be productive, the employees' concerns should be met. Questionnaires permit employers to determine employee job satisfaction. Employers can then act on these results to meet employee needs.


1) Berry, Lilly M. (1997). Psychology at Work. San Francisco: McGraw Hill Companies Inc.

Contact the authors:
Peter M. Yip
Anat Goldman
Andrea L. Martin