Job Satisfaction—Part 1

January 16, 2003
By: Vicki Bell

Unless you are among the privileged few-who appear to be becoming fewer by the minute as investment accounts are shrinking in value, savings are being wiped out, and credit card debt is mounting -- you'll spend many hours working for a living. How do you feel about your job and why?

Editors Note: This is part I in a series about job satisfaction. Please read: Part IIand Part III

In the December 2002 issue of newsletter, we asked readers to rate their job satisfaction for the year on a scale of 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). By all accounts, 2002 was a most difficult year. The job market was and continues to be tight in many areas as companies scaled back to weather the economic downturn. Employers enacted wage freezes and, in some cases, wage cuts. Bonuses, employee development, and other perks were reduced or eliminated. As many workers suddenly found themselves without jobs, many others found themselves working harder and longer for less compensation and potentially less job satisfaction.

How did these conditions affect job satisfaction among's readers? Thirty-three percent of the respondents to our survey question rated their overall job satisfaction for 2002 as 5- very satisfied. Thirty-three percent selected 4, satisfied; 10 percent, 3, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied; 10 percent, 2, dissatisfied; and 14 percent, 1, very dissatisfied.

Dissatisfaction's Effects

Surprisingly, research shows that job satisfaction has minimal effect on job performance, absenteeism, and turnover. An unhappy employee can continue to be productive and decide to stay with a company for any number of reasons - particularly in an era of massive job cuts. The most serious side effects of job dissatisfaction are stress-induced risks to the employee's emotional and physical well-being- which may in fact lead to poor performance-and the spread of negativism to other employees. These factors alone are reasons enough to pay attention to job satisfaction.

The most serious side effects of job dissatisfaction
are stress-induced risks to the employee's
emotional and physical well-being and the spread
of negativism to other employees.

Tracking Satisfaction

Tracking job satisfaction is an elusive endeavor. Workers experience different levels of satisfaction throughout each workday. And job satisfaction is subjective. Just as siblings born to and raised by the same parents can look on their upbringings as being totally different, workers who hold identical jobs in the same company, receive the same compensation, and report to the same management can have very different levels of job satisfaction. These differences are due in part to the individual worker's personality and perspective and to a multitude of personal factors that are not directly related to, but can have an overwhelming influence on, job satisfaction.'s readers were asked to reflect on 2002 as a whole and rate their job satisfaction. They also were encouraged to state the reasons for their ratings. The reasons cited offer clues about some of the factors that influence job satisfaction.

From the Very Satisfied

"I thought I would participate in your survey, because I feel that I am in a distinct minority, as I am very satisfied [5] with my current position. I have been in the tube fabricating business for almost 27 years and am fortunate enough to work for individuals who appreciate and respect the knowledge I have of our industry. I hope that I'm wrong about me being in the minority, but my personal experience and observations indicate otherwise. I look forward to seeing the results of your survey."
Bob S.

"Job satisfaction is a 5. It's satisfying, challenging, always changing, and rewarding."
Ben K.

"The number is 5. I am very satisfied. I get to do a lot of very interesting and challenging things. I have the prestigious title of manufacturing engineer, production control manager, and project leader for a new ERP system implementation. Yes, it can be very overwhelming, but still very satisfying when all comes together and works for those few minutes each day!"
Dan C.

"I'd say it was a 5! All the important tasks were accomplished - on-time and in a superior fashion. Our health was excellent and the family enjoyed the year immensely."
Hank M.

From the Very Dissatisfied

"I am very dissatisfied, and the lack of pay increases and year-end bonuses isn't why. I have 40 years of experience and education, and I have been forced to work under a young (half my age) 'hotshot' who is all smoke and mirrors. My work load has increased tremendously just correcting the things he has tried to do. I gave up suggesting better methods and am now looking forward to retirement, something I thought I would never do. I now do consulting and problem solving for several small mom and pop operations on the side, which gives me much satisfaction."
Bob C.

So What Matters Most?

According to Tom Terez, [] speaker, workshop leader, workplace consultant, and author of 22 Keys to Creating a Meaningful Workplace, the following criteria are most important in determining job satisfaction:

  • Acknowledgment
  • Balance
  • Challenge
  • Dialogue
  • Direction
  • Equality
  • Fit
  • Flexibility
  • Informality
  • Invention
  • Oneness
  • Ownership
  • Personal Development
  • Purpose
  • Relationship Building
  • Relevance
  • Respect
  • Self-identity
  • Service
  • Support
  • Validation
  • Worth

Terez stated, "Each of us has a set of factors that, for us, is what we need to have a meaningful work experience. It's much like the set of keys we carry with us at all times. For one person, the top three keys might be a deep sense of purpose, an open field to be inventive, and opportunities to build relationships. Another person's top three keys might include ownership, abundant challenges, and a good fit in the organization."

Importance of Life Satisfaction

In her book Dare to Change Your Job and Your Life, author Carole Kancier, PhD., suggests that job satisfaction is linked to satisfaction in other parts of life. She presents a list of introspective questions designed to help you determine your life satisfaction, a quality that directly impacts your job satisfaction.

Are you:

  1. Usually happy?
  2. Anticipating a bright future
  3. Rarely upset over trivial disappointments?
  4. Rarely bored?
  5. Usually in agreement with your partner?
  6. Able to communicate with your partner?
  7. Involved in a warm relationship with friends?
  8. Happily involved in work?
  9. Enjoying getting out of bed on workdays?
  10. Able to attain your career goals by being in your current position?
  11. Participating in enjoyable leisure activities?
  12. Having enough time and money for leisure?
  13. Able to accept criticism?
  14. Proud of your accomplishments?
  15. Peaceful within?
  16. Deriving meaning and purpose in life?
  17. Healthy and energetic?
  18. Maintaining good exercise, nutrition, relaxation, and sleep habits?
  19. Earning sufficient income for your needs?
  20. Without financial concerns?

According to Kancier, the more yes responses you give, the more satisfied you are. You're well-adjusted, confident, and satisfied with your job and relationships. Seven or fewer yes answers suggest you're dissatisfied.

To learn more about Tom Terez and 22 Keys to Creating a Meaningful Workplace, visit

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209