Job Satisfaction among Employee Assistance Professionals: A National Study

Article excerpt

This study was designed to examine job satisfaction in a national sample of employee assistance program (EAP) professionals. Data were collected from 210 EAP professionals through mailed surveys consisting of an individual information form and the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ; D. J. Weiss, G. W. England, & L. H. Lofquist, 1967). The average MSQ total score was within the satisfied range. The results indicated that respondents employed by external EAP organizations were more satisfied with their jobs than those who were employed by internal EAPs. Age, gender, race of respondent, rural vs. nonrural work setting, and national certification of respondent had no statistically significant impact on job satisfaction.


Employee assistance programs (EAPs) were originally developed to identify employees who were dealing with personal problems serious enough to result in a deterioration in their job performance. Once identified, such employees were usually referred to various agencies to receive treatment. The EAP has grown in recent years to be much more than a referral service. In addition to appraisal and referral, the EAP professional is now trained in conflict resolution and crisis management. EAP staff have had to expand, merge, and redefine their areas of expertise as they are being asked to assume responsibilities for many new roles (Cunningham, 1994). As the role and duties of the EAP professional have increased in complexity, so too has work-related stress.

Changes in role expectation, an increase in duties and responsibilities, longer workdays, and an increased workload have raised questions about job satisfaction among people who work in the helping professions (Edelwich & Brodsky, 1980). For example, Baird (1995) has called for research on how workload levels affect the job satisfaction of counselors, and Duffus (1996) has requested that research be done in the area of role conflict as it affects the counseling professional. In addition, Brown, Hohenshil, and Brown (1998) have requested additional research in the area of gender differences regarding job satisfaction.

EAP professionals have assisted employees in many aspects of their lives. Marital disputes, relationship problems, substance abuse, financial aid, and career counseling are just a few of the many issues that are addressed. The EAP professional is expected to be able to assist with virtually any problem that presents itself. With this much responsibility, it is not unreasonable to assume that many EAP professionals are vulnerable in a number of areas associated with job satisfaction. Because reduced job satisfaction has been associated with burnout, distancing from clients, and an uncaring attitude toward others (Spector, 1997), the study of job satisfaction among EAP professionals would be vital in assuring quality services.

Job satisfaction has been one of the most extensively researched topics in the field of "why we work." Locke's (1976) estimate of over 3,000 articles and research papers on job satisfaction was made 26 years ago; today, there are probably twice that number. Given the rather extensive volume of research on the topic, relatively little is known about what brings about job satisfaction and how the causal processes have actually worked (Jewell, 1990). Past research in the field of job satisfaction has, in many cases, raised more questions about this concept than it has answered.

To help understand the antecedents of job satisfaction, a theory of job satisfaction is needed. A recent review of the literature suggested that the facet satisfaction theory is prominent in the discussion of job satisfaction.


The facet satisfaction theory posits that the concept of job satisfaction is not one-dimensional and that it is essential to examine its individual elements. The general idea is that each element can be measured and that the concept of job satisfaction is simply the sum of its parts. …