Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Determinants of Job Satisfaction of Federal Government Employees

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Determinants of Job Satisfaction of Federal Government Employees

Article excerpt

In a report to Congress, the National Commission on the Public Service concluded that the continuous decline in job attitudes of federal government employees has created a "quiet" crisis and undermined the ability of government to respond to public needs.(2) Despite the important implications of such a crisis for civil service, with few exceptions,(3) most research of job attitude has focused on private sector employees.(4) Little research exists on the job satisfaction of government employees, especially federal government employees.(5) As Perry and Wise suggested, the lack of such research probably resulted from the view that motivating government employees is the same as motivating private sector employees.(6) Therefore there is no pressing need to study job attitudes of public sector employees.

The purpose of this study is to fill this gap. A theoretical model is developed to analyze the determinants of job satisfaction of federal government employees, and tests the model using data from the Survey of Federal Government Employees. A discussion of the research and organizational implications of the findings is presented.

Theoretical Framework and Research Hypotheses

This study proposes and assesses the argument that job satisfaction of federal government employees is determined by three sets of variables: job characteristics, organizational characteristics, and individual characteristics.(7) Job characteristics refer to variables that describe characteristics of jobs performed by employees. Organizational characteristics refer to variables that describe characteristics of the organization in which the jobs are performed. Individual characteristics refer to variables that describe characteristics of the employees who perform the jobs. It should be noted that these variables are not mutually exclusive without any overlap. For example, a person's pay satisfaction is not unrelated to that person's organizational commitment, and they all affect the person's job satisfaction. For analytic purposes, however, they will be kept delineated.

Job Characteristics

Early organizational theorists such as Abraham Maslow and Frederick Herzberg stated that job satisfaction is caused by individuals' desires to fulfill personal needs, which include intrinsic and extrinsic needs.(8) Researchers adopting this approach argue that an individual's job satisfaction is determined by the degree to which job characteristics will fulfill the person's needs.(9)

Pay Satisfaction and Career Growth

Researchers have shown that pay satisfaction and the need for career growth are two of the most important predictors of job satisfaction, given their strong theoretical linkage to the formation of individual job attitudes.(10) For individuals satisfied with their pay and promotional opportunities, the costs of leaving their organizations would be greater. As a result, they are likely to develop more positive attitudes toward their jobs.(11) Several studies have also shown that the deterioration of pay and lack of promotional opportunities are associated with job dissatisfaction of public employees and their tendency to leave the civil service.(12) Given this:

* Hypothesis 1: Individuals are more satisfied with their jobs if they are more satisfied with their pay and promotional opportunities.

Task Clarity

Task clarity refers to the degree to which job tasks and the rules affecting how to perform them are clearly communicated to individuals. It affects individuals' sense of knowing what is expected of them and what to do. Researchers have shown that an accurate understanding of job requirements can help them adjust to their jobs by reducing uncertainty and minimizing risks of learning through trial and error, and lead to positive job attitudes.(13) This leads to the following hypothesis:

* Hypothesis 2: Individuals are more satisfied with their jobs if they know more clearly their tasks and the rules affecting how to complete them. …

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