The Highs and the Lows of Job Satisfaction

18 October 2023 at 09:49 · 9 min read

An office of satisfied employees

It’s estimated that the average person spends around 30% of their life at work. 

With that in mind, it’s worth considering what we can do to help increase job satisfaction amongst ourselves and others. This is both for the wellbeing of us as individuals and for the benefit of the organisations where we work.

But what do we actually mean by ‘satisfaction?’ ‘Satisfaction’ usually refers to the attitude that we have towards something and reflects the extent to which we feel it fulfils our needs and wants.  A common term in studies of Organisation Behaviour, ‘Job satisfaction’ specifically refers to an individual's feeling towards their work. 

From an employee’s point of view, it’s significant, because, if an employee is satisfied with their job their productivity will typically be higher. Thus, an individual's job satisfaction together with their underlying attitudes towards their work can have a strong impact on the organisation as a whole.

Of course, all this is also influenced by numerous other factors such as job complexity, support from the organization, and a person’s individual personality traits - such as perhaps someone’s innate introversion and extraversion. Nevertheless, over time this research has shown that employees who had a positive attitude and greater job satisfaction were not only more productive but tried to maximize their potential, and were less likely to change jobs. 

Ultimately, if an employee receives constructive feedback from his superiors and receives tasks that correspond well to their abilities and which promote their development, positive attitudes and greater job satisfaction should improve over time.

Nevertheless, if we want to improve employee job satisfaction, it can be useful to look out for some of the signs of employee dissatisfaction


How can you recognise low job satisfaction? 

It’s not always possible to ‘go the extra mile’ but if someone consistently strives to only meet the normal, or minimum obligations associated with a role then it might be a sign of an underlying issue. This can be especially so if feedback on their performance feels like it is often disregarded. 

This brings us to a second sign: interpersonal relationships. These are an important aspect in all areas of life, including work. Dissatisfaction with work can also manifest itself through poor relationships with colleagues, poor communication, or a noticeable avoidance of social activities with colleagues outside the workplace. 


How to solve employee dissatisfaction? 

Let's say we identify a potential issue with either our own or a colleague’s jobs satisfaction, what can we do and how can we begin to conceptualise the problem?

Perhaps one of the simplest ways is to look at Adams' theory of equality. According to this theory, employees will become more motivated and satisfied if the ratio of inputs and outputs is balanced. ‘Inputs’ here refers to a commitment to work, time, effort, dedication, and support while outputs refer to earnings, bonuses, achievements, development, praise, and so on. 

As a first step, you can analyze the factors that affect your workplace and see what the balance between ‘output’ and ‘input’ is. In order to try to motivate employees and thus increase their satisfaction, perhaps what you need to do is increase the appropriate outputs. In certain cases, this may refer to a salary increase or better recognition of their efforts. Often, even just praise for a job well done can encourage employees to work even harder on future tasks. 

Ultimately, the greatest source of motivation and positive attitudes for employees is the feeling of belonging to a team and feeling like their work is appreciated. It’s therefore important to make sure that there are appropriate systems in place for this to happen. Whilst this will likely differ from industry to industry, making sure that there are robust and fair channels in place for performance evaluation and constructive feedback can be an important first step.


Work is something that takes up a large portion of our lives and our attitude towards it affects all the other important aspects of our life. It’s worth getting it right for our own sake, and others’. 


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