I Can’t Get No, Satisfaction: A look at Job Satisfaction Assessment

There are few concepts as heavily investigated in I/O psychology as Job Satisfaction. How pleased a person is with their work is fundamental to how well they perform. Countless theories have been applied to the subject, with almost every level of work performance being effected by satisfaction in one way or another. One of the most accepted definitions of Job Satisfaction was made by Locke (1976) “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experiences”. While this may seem obvious, it sums up what almost all theories on the subject agree about, that a person’s emotional state has an effect on their work environment and vice versa.

Now how would we know that a person is satisfied with their job? What do we look at to capture the emotional state from work in isolation? What do people do with these assessments? There are many assessments of Job Satisfaction, from large multifaceted assessments like the Job Descriptive Index (JDI) and Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire down to smaller job specific questionnaires which attempt to assess sub characteristics of job satisfaction and work relationships. While they can be very internally extensive, these questionnaires tend to be simple Likert Scale assessments that try and get to the rout of the variables governing Satisfaction.

There are thought to be three broad sets of characteristics that can be looked at when evaluating Job Satisfaction. Worker characteristics are an employee’s innate traits, their internal disposition that will be carried everywhere with them and always have an effect on their work no matter what it is. Different levels of positive and negative affect will be carried by people into their work and have an effect on their performance and overall satisfaction. Job characteristics are aspects of the work itself that would motivate an employee. Hackman & Oldham (1980) identified five core variables of this characteristic: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. These different aspects have a major effect on an employee’s emotional state and are key to satisfaction. Lastly there are Organizational characteristics, these are the aspects of the work environment which effect satisfaction. These include attitudes of co-workers, relationships with the boss, working conditions, and many other more social ques that change how we perceive our own satisfaction. While these are more broad categories that contain many variable, most assessments boil these down to some key facets of working such as pay, promotions, supervision, utilization, and social status.

The final questions is, what are these assessments even used for? The goal of any company is to improve upon itself and become better at what it does. One of the best ways to do this is find what aspects of the workplace are harming employee satisfaction and attempt to improve them. An organization may find out that their company policies are out of date and hampering the lives of their newer employees, or that they distinctly lack the framework for employee work life balance, they even might find that their largest deficits are in areas many take for granted such as recognition of work and achievements. Knowing these weaknesses is exceptionally important for any company as ignoring these problems can possibly lead to lower job performance, higher absenteeism and in the worst case, high employee turnover.

People want their work to work for them. Everyone wants to be part of the team and strive to achieve, the employer just needs to make sure that people like their work. Not everyone will be satisfied with their jobs, no matter what happens, but that just makes finding the flaws in Job Satisfaction even more important. Making the effort to find out what makes employees happy benefits everyone. No one has ever lost something from making work enjoyable. If you love your work, then you will never work a day in your life.


Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1980). Work redesign. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley.

Locke, E. A. (1976). The nature and causes of job satisfaction. In M. D. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 1297–1349). Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.

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