One of the primary focuses of anyone that has ever been a manager of people, or in Human Resources is job satisfaction. Many organizations will survey their employees annually on job satisfaction. If done properly, they will also come up with an action plan post-survey to address the things causing dissatisfaction for employees. It has long been commonly believed that a happy employee is a productive employee. I remember some of my first jobs as a teenager (Dairy Queen and Fleet Farm) where if someone wasn’t happy with the job they were doing, the compensation they were receiving, or with a manager that they reported to they would leave and find another job. These jobs also employed staff that had been there ‘forever’ even though they could probably get a better paying job elsewhere. Did they stay because they were loyal, comfortable, or were they really satisfied with their job?
There are many dynamics to job satisfaction and different aspects to measure: pay, benefits, relationship with supervisor or manager, ability to grow within the company, work environment and conditions, and connection with coworkers. The impact that a job has on the organization is one of the more important aspects of job satisfaction. If the role is meaningful and impactful then and it is challenging and allows the employee to grow personally, they are more likely to be satisfied with their job. Social factors are also a contributing factor to satisfaction. Just like the power of attraction, if an employee is continuously exposed to negative opinions they are more likely to feel negatively, and if they are surrounded by positive comments they are more likely to be satisfied (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012). Misery loves company, and positivity attracts positivity. As stated above however, a commonly believed thought was that happy employees are productive employees. Though easy to believe, this is actually not accurate. Studies were unable to conclusively show causation between satisfaction and productivity (Judge, Thoresen, Bono, Patton, 2001).
In Human Resources, we often hear and read that an employee doesn’t leave an organization, they leave their supervisor. Though I don’t believe this is always the case, it is a highly impactful relationship that is a deciding factor on whether someone chooses to stay at an organization or not. I’ve received several resignation notices in my time as an HR Manager – most say something along the lines of…I appreciate the opportunity I had to work for the organization but have accepted a job elsewhere. When we complete an exit survey the reason stated in the notice is rarely the real reason they are choosing to leave.
In the cases where the employee is choosing to leave the organization because of the manager or supervisor there are a few different possibilities. One, the manager or supervisor could just be a jerk. I always hope this is not the case. We put a lot of faith in our managers and expect them to be respectful, fair, appropriate and effective. As discussed in the lesson however, power has a tendency to alter a person into thinking that they are superior to others, and disparage their employees. Therefore, this is always a possibility. Another possibility is conceptual filters and communication barriers. Conceptual filters are “attitudes, cognitions, and perceptions that may distort information exchange (Schneider, et al., 2012). In order to not be overwhelmed by all incoming information, our mind has learned to decide what is important to us and disregard the rest. This can cause problems in the interactions and communication between managers and supervisors and their employees. Assessment of performance is also not accurate due to the human nature of superiours putting too much weight on internal factors of their employees affecting work versus external factors. If an employee was not able to complete all of their tasks prior to the end of their shift – a common response is that the employee is not working fast or efficiently enough to be able to complete the task, even though it may have been a particularly busy shift and there just wasn’t enough time to do everything. Where the manager believes the employee is unable to do the job effectively, the employee also tends to place more weight on external factors when receiving criticism. Not only can this cause a wedge, but there is also the possibility that the employee does not understand the full expectations of the manager.
Trying to balance the expectations of the manager and the perceptions of employees is a full-time job. The best approach in both situations is to look at it with a positive attitude. Too often people look at a situation thinking that something was done on purpose or maliciously, when a majority of people are reasonable and just trying to do their best. Everyone makes mistakes. When managers and employees are able to have a common performance language and clear expectations and communication – There will not be perceptual biases in the workplace. This would contribute to a more satisfactory environment for all involved.
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(3), 376-407.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2018). PSYCH 424 Lesson 7: Organizational Life and Teams. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1924488/modules/items/23682601
Schneider, F., Gruman, J., Coutts, L. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.