On the conceptualization of job satisfaction


Pedro Ng

TitleOn the conceptualization of job satisfaction
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateAugust, 1973

Job satisfaction

Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:A main purpose of the foregoing exercise is to suggest a way to conceptualize the generation of satisfaction that would enable us to understand the phenomenon concerned better than by merely asking some such question as “Are you satisfied with your job?” or by relating the answer to this question with various characteristics of the job, although some interesting results may be obtained. The suggested scheme is however, only propositional in that it has to be tested and refined in actual occupational contexts. The operationalization of the scheme may differ from one occupation to another. Thus, while professional recognition from peers may be a vital form of role-support for scientists, monetary profit may constitute a large part of role-support for businessmen. Similarly, the motivation to reserve self-evaluation may be much more salient at a more abstract level among academicians than among, say, factory workers. But the motivational element is probably basic in the dynamics of work and could at least be inferred, given adequate research design, from certain indicators.

The major utility of the conceptual framework outlined in this paper appears to be the provision of certain guidelines for identifying the “determinants”, or the components of such determinants, of job satisfaction within given occupations. That is, one could take into consideration as many relevant aspects of the occupation as possible and organize them in some sort of a theoretical model that purports to account for satisfaction as a dependent variable. Thus, a person’s own conception of his role in his work, his perception of others’ expectations for him in his work, the extent to which he thinks he has fulfilled both his own and others’ expectations (attainment of role-identity), the relative importance of various rewards and/or benefits in his job, the extent to which such rewards and/or benefits are achieved, and the like, can be incorporated into a network of variables, some of which may precede others in temporal sequence, to be studied. In a study of this nature, it might be a good idea to have some knowledge of where the individual stands in his occupational career, e.g., whether he is in his first occupation or has gone a long way reaching perhaps the climax of his career, since this has significant implications for how individual perceives his social reality. Other important questions to be included in such a study may well be concerned with events in the past and probably deeply imbedded personal feelings. Thus a carefully designed personal interview method is likely to yield better results than asking respondents to fill out questionnaires.

Finally, since satisfaction is the dependent variable in the sense described in this paper, the measurement of satisfaction is particularly worth attention. The single-question approach, although useable, may be quite limited in interpretation. Given, the implied multi-dimensionality of job satisfaction, the multiple item index method is likely to tap the individual’s effective response to his work more effectively. In a study of satisfaction in the academic profession (Ng, 1971), the writer used four questions in constructing a satisfaction index:

1) Would you change jobs now? (1 = yes; 2 = possible; 3 = no)

2) Compared with your contemporaries, i.e., those who entered your discipline or occupation at about the same time you did, how would you rate your own career advancement? Consider rank, salary, honours, reputation of your institution, etc. (1 = very much below average; 2 = below average; 3 = slightly below average; 4 = about average; 5 = slightly above average; 6 = substantially above average or in top 20 per cent; 7 = far above average, or about top 10 per cent)

3) On the whole, do the satisfactions and rewards of your present work meet your earlier expectations for this stage in your career? (1 = no; 2 = yes; 3 = they exceed)

4) Using a five-point scale (5 = strongly disagree to 1 = strongly agree), to what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement: “I often get discouraged about my work?”

As the items indicate, a self-evaluation of the individual’s work, covering in effect the past, the present, and the future, is measured from several angles. The response categories to these questions were so coded that a high total score would mean relatively greater satisfaction. Naturally, consideration needs to be given to the appropriateness of such and similar questions for the occupation under investigation. The problem of validity in particular has always to be faced and dealt with in the use of similar indices to measure a phenomenon as complex as job satisfaction.

Despite the apparent abundance of empirical studies in job satisfaction in various occupational contexts, very limited exploration has been made in providing a more systematic theoretical support to the understanding of satisfaction in general. The ideas presented in this short paper, being rudimentary and exploratory, can only serve the purpose of stimulating further thinking and work along the direction of both theorizing about satisfaction and operationalizing such theorizing into researchable designs. To the extent that this will follow, this brief intellectual exercise will have achieved its goal.

NoteBibliography: leaves 30-31
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