|A happy employee is a good employee, right? Not necessarily. In today’s competitive conditions, companies are looking for ways to make their employees more productive. One trend has been to try to increase job satisfaction in the workplace. Unfortunately, job satisfaction and its effects on the organization are one of the most misunderstood aspects of organizational behavior.
Most people believe there is a strong relationship between job satisfaction and job performance. Years of research on this topic, however, found that less that 3% of the factors that drive job performance can be attributed to job satisfaction. In real world terms, this means there are a lot of people out there who hate their jobs but still do them well. By the same token, there are folks who love their jobs, but are still not very good at them.
One obvious effect of low job satisfaction should be turnover, and it’s not surprising that some of the worst jobs have some of the highest turnover rates. But turnover is a complex phenomenon because so many things influence it. For example, the economy plays a role in turnover. During hard economic times even people with low job satisfaction will stay with their jobs. That’s not always a sure thing, however - during the Great Depression, a surprisingly large percentage of people still quit their jobs without another job lined up.
Setting the Record Straight
So what is the real story about job satisfaction? Should employers stop worrying about the happiness of their employees? After all, their satisfaction with their work doesn’t seem to have an effect on the bottom line, right?
It would be easy to jump to that conclusion, but that would be a mistake. A close reading of the research literature would reveal that while job satisfaction doesn’t have a large effect on individual job performance, it may have important effects on other aspects of the job that do affect the bottom line.
One of the most dramatic effects of low job satisfaction may be its effect on very negative job behaviors such as theft and sabotage. Take the unhappy maintenance supervisor of a New York high-rise office building. He took a critical component out of the cooling system during July. The replacement part took three months to arrive. In the sealed-window building, office temperatures reportedly routinely exceeded 90 degrees. You can bet the management company wishes they had paid more attention to job satisfaction!
It’s Not All Bad
But there’s good news too. Job satisfaction does seem to be related to “Organizational Citizenship Behaviors” (OCBs), things that employees do that are “above and beyond the call of duty.” And this goes beyond working extra hours to get a big project finished - it also includes things like helping out a fellow employee who is having trouble with his computer, calling the copier repairman instead of just walking away from the copier, picking up some flammable waste (that somebody else dropped) from the production floor, and any of the thousands of little things that make the workplace more efficient, more productive, and even safer. Admittedly, those things are much harder to measure than an individual employee’s productivity, but they do have a very real and substantive effect on organizational productivity.
So is a happy employee a productive employee? Not necessarily. But happy employees do tend to make for productive organizations.
© 2004 Performance Minds