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Defining job satisfaction

In addition to engagement and motivation, a further key concept we must consider is job satisfaction.

How do we define job satisfaction?

Putting it simply, job satisfaction refers to how happy an individual feels about their career. The happier an individual feels about their job, the more satisfied they are with it.

The concept of job satisfaction has been defined in many ways over the years, thanks to the work of myriad researchers and practitioners. Possibly the most inclusive was proposed by Locke in 1976 who defined job satisfaction as:

…a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experiences.

(Locke 1976: 1404)

Models of job satisfaction

Some people believe that when we refer to job satisfaction, we’re simply talking about how content an individual is with their job. In other words, it concerns whether or not they like their job or individual elements of it, such as the nature of work or the levels and nature of supervision.

Others believe that the concept of job satisfaction is not as simplistic as this. Instead, they suggest other factors need to be considered to achieve job satisfaction (Steptoe-Warren 2013).

Three models which have been developed to capture these additional factors include:

The dispositional model

Work attitudes (job satisfaction, for example) are dispositional in nature. Arvey et al. (1994) suggest that people’s disposition towards life, and thus towards work, either positive or negative, is created and maintained by an individual’s genetic inheritance. However, the effect of dispositions on job performance is not clear.

The social information processing model

Steptoe-Warren (2013) states that employees develop attitudes toward their work as they look up to their co-workers to make sense of their work environment. The employee is more likely to be satisfied with their job and work environment if their colleagues are. If an individual’s work colleagues are negative about their work and work environment, the individual is also more likely to be dissatisfied.

The integrated approach

This approach combines the dispositional model and the social information processing model and assumes that there is an interplay of the innate factors and situational factors affecting an individual’s job satisfaction.

Your task

Which of the three models – the dispositional, social information processing or integrated approach – makes the most sense to you? Think of an example from your own experience to support your choice.

Post your thoughts in the comments area.


Arvey, R. D., McCall, B. P., Bouchard, Jr, T.J. Taubman, P., and Cavanaugh, M. A. (1994) ‘Genetic Influences on Job Satisfaction and Work Values’. Personality and Individual Differences 17 (1), 21-33

Judge, T. A., and Hulin, C. L. (1993) ‘Job Satisfaction as a Reflection of Disposition: A Multiple Source Causal Analysis’. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 56 (3), 388-421

Locke, E. A. (1976) ‘The Nature and Causes of Job Satisfaction’. In Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Vol. 1. ed. by Dunnette, M. D., and Hough, L. M. Chicago: Rand McNally

Steptoe-Warren, G. (2013) Occupational Psychology: An Applied Approach [online] Harlow: Pearson. available from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=COV_ALMA2137394840002011&context=L&vid=COV_VU1&search_scope=LSCOP_COV&tab=local&lang=en_US [10th May 2019]

Further reading

Arnold, J., and Randall, R. (2010) Work Psychology: Understanding Human Behaviour in the Workplace. 5th edn. Harlow: Pearson

McKenna, E. (2012) Business Psychology and Organisational Behaviour: A Student’s Handbook. Hove: Psychology Press

Mitchell, O. S., Levine, P. B., and Pozzebon, S. (1990) ‘Aging, Job Satisfaction, and Job Performance’. in The Aging of the American Workforce. ed. by Bluestone, I., Montgomery, R. J. V., and Owen, J. D. Detroit: Wayne State University Press

Nagy, M. S. (2002) ‘Using a Single-item Approach to Measure Facet Job Satisfaction’. Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology [online] 75 (1). available from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=TN_gale_ofa84549676&context=PC&vid=COV_VU1&search_scope=Primo_Central&tab=remote&lang=en_US [10th May 2019]

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This article is from the free online course:

Employee Engagement and Motivation: An Introduction

Coventry University