Job Satisfaction and Organizational Tenure in Three Mexican Assembly Plants

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Organizational tenure matters because it is one of the few variables by which managers can differentiate jobs in order to maximize job satisfaction within a workforce. In this follow-up to a 2003 JAME publication focusing on the relationship between organizational tenure and job satisfaction, workers at three assembly plants in Northern Mexico were surveyed. Our results show that while pay is important in determining the job satisfaction of new employees, voice is more important for senior employees. These findings are important because they show that an organization cannot treat the workforce with a "one size fits all" mentality. However, new and senior employees had similar interests in future opportunities within the organization, and the importance of intrinsic job characteristics did not appear to change with organizational tenure. This paper concludes with recommendations for future research and practical recommendations for practitioners.

Job Satisfaction and Organizational Tenure

Managers often think about and treat employees differently depending on their time within the organization. An astute business school dean will not treat a new professor in the same manner as he or she will treat one who has been with the school for many years, and a savvy production supervisor on a factory floor will not treat a new operator as he or she will an "old hand." This paper, a follow-up to a 2003 JAME publication (Lovett & Coyle, 2003), examines the effects of time in the organization, or organizational tenure, on the antecedents and consequences of job satisfaction. Understanding these effects is important because organizational tenure is one of the few variables by which managers can differentiate jobs in order to maximize job satisfaction within the organization.

Locke's (1976) value-percept theory of job satisfaction suggests that overall job satisfaction is a sum of satisfactions within different job facets, but with each facet satisfaction weighted by its importance to the individual. There is little doubt that different individuals place differing levels of importance on job facets, or attributes, such as pay, task variety or opportunities. It follows that managers wishing to maximize job satisfaction within their organizations would naturally wish to "differentiate" jobs by offering different sets of job attributes to different individuals.

When workforces number in the hundreds or thousands, "tailoring" jobs to individuals becomes impractical. A solution may be to uncover categories of individuals who have different preferences and then offer different sets of job attributes to those individuals within these categories. The problem is to find some acceptable basis by which individuals can be categorized and jobs differentiated. Differentiation on the basis of demographic variables such as race, sex , marital status or age involves serious ethical problems and, within the U.S., has been the subject of enough controversy to inspire a large body of Equal Employment Opportunity law. This paper will, therefore, focus on what may be one of the few acceptable bases by which jobs may be differentiated: organizational tenure.

We will take "organizational tenure" to mean time of continuous service within a single organization. We have chosen this definition for three reasons. First, organizational tenure thus defined is easily known by the organization. Second, our definition makes tenure different from variables such as race, sex, or age because it involves personal choices; an individual may choose to stay in an organization or leave it. Third, differential treatment on the basis of time within an organization seems to be generally acceptable to organizational members. The present study was conducted in Mexico and, in many situations, Mexican law actually mandates differential treatment of employees based on organizational tenure (Trueba & Trueba, 2004). For example, Article 154 of the Mexican Federal Labor Law refers to the right of preference for promotions based on organizational seniority. …