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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Measuring job satisfaction, February 10, 2008, 2D.

We like our house.  It has a driveway that is big enough to ride bikes and play basketball on, a fenced backyard that helps contain our dogs, enough room inside for the family to spread out, and a location that is convenient to many of the places that we visit and shop at regularly.  There are things about the house that we would like to have improved, like closet space, another bedroom, and modern bathrooms, but overall, we are quite satisfied with where we live.

The idea of being overall satisfied with our house, but less-than-satisfied with some characteristics of the house is similar to feelings of satisfaction with jobs.   It is possible to be satisfied with a job in a global sense and at the same time be dissatisfied with one or more particular components of the job.  A person may perceive the actual work that he performs to be meaningful and enjoyable, but cares little for the people that he works with.  Likewise, an employee might be very satisfied with the opportunities for promotion within her organization, but receives far less pay than she feels is appropriate for her job and abilities.

Job satisfaction is typically regarded as being related to absenteeism, turnover, and performance to some degree.  The idea that overall job satisfaction can differ from satisfaction with particular dimensions, or facets, of a job is well understood among organizational researchers.   The Job Descriptive Index (JDI) is a survey instrument that measures five facets of job satisfaction: pay, promotion, supervision, the work itself, and co-workers.  Overall job satisfaction cannot be computed by simply summing the scores of the facet dimensions because they are independent dimensions.

Satisfaction with pay includes attitudes and perceptions about the amount of pay received in relation to personal expectations and comparisons with others.  Perceiving that opportunities exist for promotion and advancement within an organization leads to satisfaction with promotion opportunities.  The relationships that workers have with supervisors and co-workers contribute to satisfaction on those two job dimension facets.  When the jobs performed by workers are perceived as meaningful and important, they tend to experience higher levels of satisfaction on “the work itself” dimension.

Studying job satisfaction with a focus on facets provides insight into the attitudes, needs, and motives of workers.  Ministers, teachers, and social workers most likely receive high levels of satisfaction in their jobs from the work itself.  Other people might receive the greatest levels of satisfaction from their jobs from being around and interacting with coworkers and supervisors.  High pay might keep some people in their jobs even when they regard their work as less meaningful and when they receive little satisfaction from other facets of their jobs.

Sometimes it is desirable to have employees provide overall evaluations of job satisfaction—where they account for all pertinent aspects of their jobs in one single response.  At other times, managers might need to assess employee job satisfaction more specifically with an account of the different facets of job satisfaction.

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2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved