The Role of Employee Attitudes and Job Satisfaction

Introduction

Organisational behaviour (OB) is more than just a totality of individual employee job performances. It comprises the aspects of corporate culture, such as shared values; personal and organisational discipline; both task-specific and non-task specific practices; relationships among employees of all levels, etc. (Li, 2015; Mawoli and Babandako, 2011). The quality of OB largely defines the overall efficiency of companies. Thus, the determinants of positive OB are of significant interest for both practitioners and scholars.

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For a significant time, researchers have regarded employee motivation (EM) as core to efficient OB. It is observed that motivation directly affects the productivity and quality of work (Ganta, 2014). Leadership and job design are traditionally considered the most important factors contributing to the motivation of personnel (Ali and Zia-Ur-Rehman, 2014; Naile and Selesho, 2014). However, to engage employees in work, the design of the workplace environment and reinforcement practices should be substantiated by an in-depth understanding of underlying psychological mechanisms and drivers of motivation. Job satisfaction (JS) and other types of work-related attitudes are the major contributors to EM and, consequently, improved performance (Dobre, 2013). Thus, the literature findings pertaining to employee attitudes and their links to motivation and OB will be discussed in this report.

Literature Findings

Employee Attitudes and JS

Employee attitudes are widely examined in the modern scholarly discourse, and their relationships to a great variety of factors including organisational commitment and productivity are investigated as well. Overall, an attitude can be defined as a set of perceptions of a particular object or event. As for work-related attitudes, Bireswari (2013) regards them as reactions to different elements of the organisational environment: colleagues, supervisors, policies, responsibilities, etc.

According to Nafei (2014), each attitude has three major components: cognitive, affective, and behavioural. The cognitive component refers to the information a person possesses regarding a target object, and the affective component refers to emotions and feelings generated when an object is evaluated. In different individuals, attitudes may be either primarily affect-based or cognition-based, which means that every person tends to be more persuaded by either cognitive or affective information when forming an attitude (Giesen et al., 2015).

Attitudes largely define employees’ behavioural predispositions. For instance, a negative perception of a task may result in its avoidance, while the positive one will likely support the performance (Garcia-Santillan et al., 2012). However, as stated by McLeod (2014), cognitive and affective aspects of perception do not always match individuals’ behaviours. To substantiate this position, the psychologist draws the evidence obtained by LaPierre in 1934. When studying the sample of over 200 restaurants and hotels at the time when prejudice against Asians was widespread in the USA, the researcher concluded that the management and employees treated Chinese guests politely while, at the same time, 91% of these establishments expressed unwillingness to accept Chinese guests (McLeod, 2014). Nevertheless, many present-day research findings indicate a direct correlation between OB and such a type of work-related attitude as JS.

JS is often described as a combination of psychological and environmental conditions that cause an employee to enjoy or dislike his/her job (Aziri, 2011). JS is a complex concept and comprises a set of all multifactorial perceptions of the job and the workplace. It can be determined by multiple factors including professional respect and other attributes of leader-member exchange (Bang, 2015); communication and relationships with colleagues (Yee et al., 2015; Proctor, 2014); monetary compensation (Block et al., 2015); opportunities for career development (Mahapatra and Dash, 2017); the extent of functional, time, and spatial work flexibility, as well as overall work-life balance (Samani et al., 2015; Hoeven and Zoonen, 2015; Mihelic, 2014); shared organisational and personal values (Leung, 2013); the level of emotional intelligence, achievement orientations, and other personal traits (Ouyang et al., 2015; Avery et al., 2015).

There are a few dominant views on the sources and nature of JS in the contemporary scholarly discourse. Most of the researchers agree that JS results in better performance, which means that satisfied employees contribute to the overall success of firms (Shmailan, 2016). On the other hand, from the perspective of the social identity theory, JS derives from individuals’ organisational identification and a greater sense of membership and organisational commitment − the desire to remain in the firm because of the emotional attachment to it (Dasgupta et al., 2014). Karanika-Murray et al. (2015) state that a stronger and positive bond with a company is associated with increased employee engagement and dedication to the job. It usually happens when employees perceive their jobs as meaningful and worthwhile (Hassan, 2014). In this case, employees receive satisfaction from their jobs as a consequence of performance. Lastly, one more perspective suggests that recognition and feedback from supervisors and colleagues, as well as monetary and non-monetary rewards, are the job resources that foster both better performance and JS (Yeh, 2015).

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It is possible to say that the mentioned theoretical views are complementary and do not provide a comprehensive standpoint on the issue when applied in isolation. Employee engagement and JS are deeply interwoven phenomena, and it can be argued that they affect employee performance, while performance and job characteristics, in their turn, contribute to JS and organisational commitment in a like manner. The interrelations between these diverse variables in the context of OB will be analysed in the following paragraphs.

JS and OB

DuBrin (2013) defines OB as human behaviour in a particular setting and states that it is mediated by both psychological (e.g., emotions and attitudes) and sociological (e.g., stress, rewards, and team cohesion) variables. Researchers often connect positive OB to the concept of psychological capital (PsyCap). As stated by Memari et al. (2014), PsyCap is composed of such psychological variables as hopefulness, self-efficacy, optimism, and resilience. It is also observed that psychological capital affects such variables of OB as work performance, JS, and sense of belonging (Memari et al., 2014). It means that when the workplace is associated with numerous psychological hazards, such as job insecurity and work overload, employees are exposed to excess stress and tend to develop adverse psychological conditions and mindsets leading to dissatisfaction and poor performance (Hall et al., 2013).

Although it is argued that the impacts of JS on organisational performance may not be visible at all times and may be blocked by some external factors, large volumes of research evidence demonstrate that companies showing high JS and employee engagement rates are usually associated with better productivity and profitability (Bakotić, 2016). For instance, Baum and Kagan (2015) state that “satisfied workers perform better, have lower absenteeism and display higher motivation” (p. 213). Fernandez and Moldogaziev (2013) also note that JS can directly affect performance “by improving levels of energy, activity, and creativity and by enhancing memory and analytical abilities” (p. 493). For this reason, Malik (2013) suggests that both individual and organisational performance can be advanced by developing good qualities included in the PsyCap model.

As it was mentioned above, the four intrinsic components of PsyCap are self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience. Self-efficacy is regarded as a person’s positive perception of and confidence in his or her capabilities to mobilise motivation and available cognitive resources required to complete a particular task within a given context successfully (Luthans et al., 2010). Hope is defined as a positive motivational state that derives from the combination of goal-orientation and planning of pathways to meet those goals (Simons and Buitendach, 2013). Optimism is regarded as “a positive explanatory style that attributes positive events to personal, permanent, and pervasive causes, and interprets negative events in terms of external, temporary, and situation-specific factors” (Luthans and Youssef-Morgan, 2017, p. 342). Lastly, “resilience refers to the ability of an individual to bounce back from adversity, uncertainty, risk or failure, and adapt to changing and stressful life demands” (Lorenz et al., 2016, p. 2).

Based on the provided definitions, it is possible to assume that, to varying degrees, the four PsyCap variables involve an element of personal and professional motivation. For instance, the provided definition of hope implies that motivation is essential for goal planning and orientation, while the definition of self-efficacy by Luthans et al. (2010) suggests that motivation is the major driver of successful performance and task completion. Thus, to understand how greater JS and better employee attitudes can be promoted in organisations, the given variable will be discussed in greater detail, and different motivational theories will be analysed in the following section.

EM

Motivation is a broadly researched topic, and a lot of studies focus on the determination of its significance and implementation. It is considered that organisational success depends on the extent to which employees are motivated to use their abilities, and directed to perform well (Osabiya, 2015). Thus, it is essential to demonstrate what scholars believe motivation is and how it is linked to the organisational environment.

According to Conrad et al. (2015), EM is “the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals” (p. 93). Similarly, Kuranchie-Mensah and Amponsah-Tawiah (2016) define it as “the process that accounts for an individual’s intensity, direction and persistence of effort toward attaining a goal” (p. 257). As Burton (2012) observes, employee, become more motivated in case their personal goals are matched with the organisational ones. Therefore, within the organisational context, motivation refers to employee incentives to fulfil both personal and firm’s needs (Kukanja, 2013).

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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow claims that employees have five levels of needs: physiological, security, social, ego, and self-actualising (Jerome, 2013). It is suggested that lower-level needs should be satisfied before the next higher-level need would motivate employees. For instance, the study by Panagiotakopoulos (2013) demonstrates that staff learning can be a stronger motivator than direct financial rewards because it allows workers to develop various transferable skills that are in demand in the labour market and, therefore, gives them a sense of protection from long-term unemployment. Still, the evidence to support the idea of hierarchical progression is insufficient. Moreover, all people cannot be motivated in a similar way (Hosoi, 2005). The theory also fails to capture the dynamic nature of human needs. To apply the theory successfully, managers should thus consider all possible individual differences and the complexity of interrelations between various types of needs.

Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory

Herzberg suggests that employees’ behaviours are driven by intrinsic factors (motivators), such as achievement and recognition, and extrinsic factors (workplace hygiene), such as rewards and job security (Worlu and Chidozie, 2012). Hygienic needs, defined by physical and psycho-social conditions at the workplace, can only minimise dissatisfaction but unable motivate employees directly like the motivational needs can (Damij et al., 2015, p. 2). Herzberg states that such material and external factors as wage and company policies are insufficient for employees to do their best at work (Smerek and Peterson, 2006). However, they can mediate performance by supporting JS. Hyun (2009) observes that work conditions are directly linked to employees’ perceptions of JS. Sound relationships with colleagues and supervisors are regarded as significant predictors of JS as well (Tan and Waheed, 2011). Even so, it is considered that motivational factors including achievement, recognition, work itself, professional growth, etc. are more important compared to the hygienic/external ones because they are sources of internal satisfaction, which leads to greater JS and better performance (Rahman et al., 2017; Hansen et al., 2016).

It can be argued that both internal motivators and external factors may define employees behaviours in different cases. For example, although Herzberg considers remuneration a less important hygienic factor, many employees, in fact, see economic factors as essential to JS because they induce the feeling of security, sense of personal reward, and opportunities for advancement (Grazulis, 2009; Stelzner and Schutte, 2016; Thibault Landry et al., 2016).

Adams’s equity theory (ET)

The controversies in findings on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors can be partially explained from the stance of ET. While theories by Herzberg and Maslow are content motivation theories − they explain why people are motivated − ET is a process theory because it focuses on how people are motivated (Mawoli and Babandako, 2011).

ET suggests that JS and motivation arise as a result of “comparison of a worker’s perceived outcomes and inputs to the outcomes and inputs of a referent other” (Hofmans, 2012, p. 473). Employees are motivated in the situations of inequity that arises when a person gets more/less that he or she believes is deserved based on efforts and contribution (Sarfaraz Nawaz, 2011). To cope with the perceived inequity, an employee will alter his/her behaviour in different ways: by changing the volume and quality of input, changing objects of comparison, leaving the workplace, acting on others and changing their outputs, etc. (Banks et al., 2012). For example, when a person feels underpaid, he/she can decrease productivity to minimise costs and vice versa. As stated by Renfors (2017), empirical evidence shows that those who perceive themselves as under-rewarded usually feel greater psychological discomfort than those who feel over-paid.

Al-Zawahreh and Al-Madi (2012) consider that ET can be one of the most valid frameworks to understand motivation because it predicts performance and JS and, moreover, unlike content theories of motivation, it is not too broad. What is more important is that ET evaluates motivation from the recipient’s point of view. Thus, it is possible to say that unlike the discussed content theories, this theory implies that individual differences should be taken into account when developing an EM strategy.

Summary

Overall, the analysis demonstrates that EM and JS are deeply interrelated and the relations between these two variables are complex and dynamic. Therefore, for better results, an integrated approach combining the ideas proposed in both process and content motivation theories are required to develop adequate reinforcement instruments and contexts that would motivate employees in a particular setting.

Practical Implications

  • To address the basic psychological needs and reduce the perception of negative inequity, managers should create a reward distribution system that would consider an individual contribution and would be regarded by employees as fair (French et al., 2011; Bussin and van Rooy, 2014)
  • Procedural and interactional justice can also contribute to greater EM and engagement (Ghosh et al., 2014). Thus, HR, leadership, and employee communication practices must be revised to make them fairer.
  • For many people, continuous engagement in professional development and awareness of existing professional growth opportunities can result in greater JS and longer employment within the organisation (Asegid et al., 2014). Thus, employees must be provided with training, and internal recruitment should be practised in the company.
  • The external factors should support intrinsic motivations for achievement. Increased functional and decision-making autonomy, greater employee empowerment, and recognition of efforts can help managers to sustain the intrinsic motivation of subordinates (Gagné and Deci, 2005; Wiedemann, 2016; Al Mehrzi and Singh 2016; Ankli and Palliam, 2012).
  • When a sufficient level of physiological and psychological workplace security is attained, it is essential to recognise employee’s accomplishments in a way that will satisfy their higher-rank esteem needs (Kaur, 2013).

Conclusion

The findings show that employee performance, JS, and motivation are deeply interrelated. Their relationships are dynamic and complex, and there is no clear indication in the modern literature about whether JS predicts better performance or job performance itself results in JS. In fact, it can be argued that the relationships between the variables are two-sided. Moreover, the external workplace environment can significantly mediate them both.

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The analysis of the main motivation theories makes it clear that to foster the positive OB, the management should strive to promote higher JS through the implementation of an effective motivation system that takes into account various needs and behavioural mechanisms. Different theoretical perspectives must be combined for better results as both content and process theories provide necessary insights into the nature of EM.

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