Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Determinants of Job Satisfaction of Municipal Government Employees

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Determinants of Job Satisfaction of Municipal Government Employees

Article excerpt

Organizational scholars have long been interested in why some people report being very satisfied with their jobs, while others express much lower levels of satisfaction. (1) The drive to understand and explain job satisfaction has been motivated by utilitarian reasons (e.g., increased productivity and organizational commitment, lower absenteeism and turnover, and ultimately, increased organizational effectiveness) as well as humanitarian interests (i.e., employees deserve to be treated with respect and have their psychological and physical well-being maximized). Satisfied workers also tend to engage in organizational citizenship behaviors, i.e., altruist behaviors that exceed the formal requirements of a job (2); while dissatisfied workers show an increased propensity for counterproductive behaviors, e.g., withdrawal, burnout, and workplace aggression. (3)

Despite the widespread interest in job satisfaction among researchers and practitioners, scant attention has been focused on explaining variation in job satisfaction among government employees, especially municipal employees. In fact, to our knowledge, no one has developed an empirical model to analyze the antecedents of job satisfaction among municipal employees. This oversight is especially glaring in light of the fact that local government employees represent one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. work force. Over 11 million people are currently employed by local governments throughout the United States (4), an increase of over 20 percent in the past 10 years. (5) Moreover, the continued devolution of federal power to the state and local levels assures the continued growth of municipal employees for years to come. (6)

Some scholars have speculated that the paucity of job satisfaction research regarding government employees stems from the belief that the work motivations and attitudes of those employed in the public sector are essentially the same as their private sector counterparts. (7) Yet, public management scholars often make sharp distinctions between public and private sector employees in terms of organizational behavior and motivational profiles. (8)

In this article, we employ regression analysis to test the relative influence of 11 environmental variables and 3 demographic factors on variation in job satisfaction among local government employees. Job satisfaction was defined and measured as overall job satisfaction, not as satisfaction with various facets of the job. The data for this article are from a survey of 1,227 full-time municipal employees representing 18 departments and serving an area population of approximately 200,000 in the midwest region of the United States. Over 50 percent of the variation in job satisfaction among municipal employees is explained using this model.

Literature Review and Research Expectations

Job satisfaction is commonly defined as the extent to which employees like their work. (9) It is an attitude based on employee perceptions (negative or positive) of their jobs or work environments. (10) Most efforts to explain job satisfaction have been dominated by the person-environment fit paradigm. (11) Simply stated, the more a person's work environment fulfills his or hers needs, values, or personal characteristics, the greater the degree of job satisfaction. Several of the most popular theoretical applications of the person-environment fit approach to the study of job satisfaction have looked at fulfillments, (12) job characteristics, (13) met expectancies, (14) value attainment, (15) equity, (16) organizational justice, (17) and personal traits. (18)

Regardless of the theoretical approach used to study job satisfaction, most studies have identified at least two general categories of antecedent variables associated with job satisfaction: environmental factors and personal characteristics. (19) Environmental antecedents of job satisfaction pertain to factors associated with the work itself or work environment, while personal factors focus on individual attributes and characteristics. …

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