Exploring Horticultural Employees' Attitudes toward Their Jobs: A Qualitative Analysis Based on Herzberg's Theory of Job Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Job satisfaction is likely the most studied work-related attitude and is assumed to influence a variety of behaviors. This study analyzes the job satisfaction of agricultural employees using Herzberg's theory, which is broadly employed in management. Fourteen horticultural businesses participated in case studies of labor-management practices. Fifteen nonsupervisory employee interviews were analyzed regarding job satisfaction. Components of job satisfaction relevant to horticultural employees were family-business values, achievement, recognition, work itself, involvement, personal life, interpersonal relationships, job security, supervision, working conditions, organization, safety, compensation, and information. While support for Herzberg's theory is weak, it is useful for classifying employees' attitudes.

Key Words: human resource management, hygiene factors, in-depth interviews, job satisfaction, motivators, personnel management, qualitative research

JEL Classifications: B49, M12, M50, M54, Q12

Job satisfaction is a general attitude toward an individual's current job and organization that encompasses the feelings, beliefs, and thoughts about that job. Job satisfaction is likely the most studied attitude in organizational behavior (Cranny, Smith, and Stone). Most people believe that job satisfaction is closely associated with performance and numerous other important work behaviors, including absenteeism, turnover, and organizational citizenship behavior. Employees' job satisfaction is both a goal in itself and a proxy for an organization's capacity to retain and motivate its employees (Fisher and Locke; Locke).

Job satisfaction has been studied in many different ways and theories on job satisfaction are numerous, including theories of motivation and organizational behavior that have been interpreted as theories of job satisfaction in various empirical studies (for a historical overview see Locke; for a more recent discussion, see Cranny, Smith, and Stone). In the practice of human resource management, the theory of motivation and job satisfaction put forth by Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman (see also Herzberg 1966), widely know as Herzberg's theory, has been very influential and underlies many current management guidelines. The continuing broad interest of management practice in Herzberg's theory has been underlined by a recent republication in the Harvard Business Review's "Ideas with Impact" series (Herzberg 2003).

Based on a review of job attitude research, Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman devised a study of work attitudes to test the assumption that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not two extremes of a continuum, but are caused by different underlying job factors and cannot substitute for each other for practical purposes. Their seminal study used the critical incident method of data collection, which is a semistructured, open-ended interview technique focusing on exceptional experiences. After a brief introduction of the nature of the project, research participants were told that the interviewer was primarily interested in hearing about actual experiences. Then respondents were told to start with "... any kind of story you like-either a time when you felt exceptionally good or a time when you felt exceptionally bad about your job . . ." (p. 35). After the first sequence was explored, respondents were asked for the second. For the second round, they were given less freedom. If the first story had been "a high," the respondent was then asked for "a low" (p. 35) and vice versa. Some respondents went on to tell a third story and a few even told a fourth one. Details of the procedure were tested in two pilot studies.

Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman used a content analytical approach to analyze the data. However, they did not approach the data with preconceived categories based on the literature research ("a priori approach," p. 37), but developed a coding scheme of 16 factors extracted from the empirical material gathered ("a posteriori approach," p. …