A typical question All things considered, how satisfied are you with your job? Answers from 1, 2, = Completely satisfied 1 = Completely dissatisfied
Some cheery news:
European levels of job satisfaction are high. ~ 5.4 out of seven
In our work, we have new data on random samples from 35 countries.
Findings on job satisfaction
Pay Large workplace Female Job security Education Autonomy
Findings on job satisfaction Pay positive Large workplace Female Job security Education Autonomy
Findings on job satisfaction Pay positive Large workplace negative Female Job security Education Autonomy
Findings on job satisfaction Pay positive Large workplace negative Female positive Job security Education Autonomy
Findings on job satisfaction Pay positive Large workplace negative Female positive Job security positive Education Autonomy
Findings on job satisfaction Pay positive Large workplace negative Female positive Job security positive Education zero Autonomy
Findings on job satisfaction Pay positive Large workplace negative Female positive Job security positive Education zero Autonomy positive
There is a lot of research that shows it is relative pay (particularly the ordinal rank of pay) that matters.
Who controls the pace of work is important. It is OK if customers and colleagues do. Not when bosses or machines do.
On autonomy Who controls the pace of work is important. It is OK if customers and colleagues do. Not when bosses or machines do. Some evidence that it pays to give employees small freedoms (like the ability to move their desk slightly).
There is also an intriguing life-cycle pattern
Watch out for mid-life, and dont be too hard on yourself.
The U in job satisfaction through life
This mirrors a general mid-life psychological low period (orcrisis) that is normal in humans.
The pattern of a typical persons happiness through life
The probability of depression by age Males, LFS data set Year of birth Regression coefficient
Great apes also have a midlife low We recently published this finding in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (joint with A Weiss et al.)
Do you, and should you, want to be promoted?
Leadership is associated with lower levels of stress, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Gary D. Sherman et al.Gary D. Sherman
Using unique samples of real leaders, including military officers and government officials... leaders had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower anxiety.
Yet new longitudinal research sheds doubt on the causality.
Extra Status and Extra Stress: Are Promotions Good for Us? by David W. Johnston, Wang-Sheng Lee (June 2012) published in: Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 2013, 66 (1), 32-54
Yes, promotion improves job security, pay perceptions and job satisfaction in the short term...
However, promotions have negligible effects on workers' health and happiness... mental health seems affected with.. a deterioration two years after promotion.
Is work getting more stressful? [Yes] Work by Francis Green, Keith Whitfield, et al.
Proportion of High-Strain Jobs Green (2008) Work Effort and Worker Well-Being in the Age of Affluence Source: Skills Survey series
But should organizations want their workers to have high job satisfaction?
Very probably, yes. Happiness makes people more productive.
Positive effects for organizations from job satisfaction Edmans, A The link between job satisfaction and firm value, with implications for corporate social responsibility. Academy of Management Perspectives 26, Bockerman, P; Ilmakannus, P The Job Satisfaction-Productivity Nexus: A Study Using Matched Survey and Register Data. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 26, 1-19.
The Edmans study To address reverse causality, I measure firm value by using future stock returns Companies listed in the "100 Best Companies to Work For in America" generated 2.3% to 3.8% higher stock returns per year than their peers from 1984 through 2011.
The Bockerman paper studies data on 1000 establishments in Finland. It finds a strong correlation between job satisfaction and value- added-per-worker 2 years later.
A Warwick University study We studied 500 people in the laboratory doing a white collar task under timed pressure.
Those with recent family bad life events were less happy and less productive. A random sample were made to laugh for 10 minutes first – they were then 12% more productive.
Just before I close:
Job satisfaction and mental well-being at work are of interest in themselves.
But, more broadly, there seem to be deep links between mind and body.
The work of Sheldon Cohen
The Cohen laboratory trials show less-stressed people have a stronger immune system.
Author(s): Ebrecht M, Hextall J, Kirtley LG, Taylor A, Dyson M, Weinman JEbrecht MHextall JKirtley LGTaylor ADyson MWeinman J PSYCHONEUROENDOCRINOLOGY Volume: 29 Issue: 6 Pages: Published: JUL 2004
In other words, happier human beings heal more quickly.
We need to understand these interconnections better.
Some ideas to end:
Conclusions #1 There are clear patterns in job satisfaction found across the industrialized nations.
Conclusions #2 High job satisfaction seems genuinely valuable for organizations.
Conclusions #3 It is probably also valuable for peoples physical health.
Conclusions #4 Bosses do have lower cortisol and higher job satisfaction, but it is not clear that promotion does that to them.
Conclusions #5 There is some evidence that mental strain at work is a growing problem in Europe.
Conclusions #6 Giving people small freedoms probably pays off commercially.
I know you believe in fun at work
Happiness at Work Andrew Oswald University of Warwick, UK With many thanks to Professor Andrew E. Clark (Paris) for data and helpful advice.