Which Is a Better Predictor of Job Performance: Job Satisfaction or Life Satisfaction?

By Jones, Michelle D. | Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Which Is a Better Predictor of Job Performance: Job Satisfaction or Life Satisfaction?


Jones, Michelle D., Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management


ABSTRACT

Will people who are happy with their jobs exhibit superior job performance? Researchers have examined the "happy worker is a productive worker" postulation for decades and concluded the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance is not as strong as one would expect. The current research investigates possible explanations, including operationalizations of the satisfaction and performance variables. Using information from 87 respondents and their supervisors, the addition of life satisfaction and organizational citizenship behavior to the model was tested. Results moderately supported the addition of life satisfaction to increase our ability to predict in- and extra-role job performance.

Review of Relevant Literature

The speculation that job satisfaction is related to performance dates back to the early days of the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology (e.g., Kornhauser & Sharp, 1932). Throughout the years, organizational theorists have advanced several viewpoints regarding the nature of the satisfaction-performance relationship: (1) satisfaction causes performance; (2) performance causes satisfaction; (3) the satisfaction-performance relationship is moderated by a number of other variables; or (4) both are caused by an exogenous variable. Some moderators examined in past research include the contingency of rewards (e.g., Jacobs & Solomon, 1977; Lawler, 1973), situational constraints (e.g., Bhagat, 1982; Herman, 1973), self-esteem (e.g., Jacobs & Solomon, 1977; Lopez, 1982), pressures for production (Triandis, 1959), and reciprocity norms (Organ, 1977). Each of these proposed relationships has been investigated by numerous researchers. Yet there remains no clear consensus on which explanation is most valid across all settings or the circumstances in which each explanation is most valid.

Furthermore, the majority of empirical findings published on this topic point to the apparent conclusion that the relationship between satisfaction and performance is weak at best. Nonetheless, many researchers continue to pursue the investigation of this relationship largely because of the apparently commonsensical link between the two variables. While most people associated with the human relations movement focused on improving performance through satisfying employees' needs, research results contradicted this underlying assumption (e.g., Katz, Maccoby, Gurin, & Floor, 1951; Katz, Maccoby, & Morse, 1950). These researchers found no differences in satisfaction between high and low performance groups, and, in some cases, concluded that those with lower performance levels reported higher satisfaction. Brayfield and Crocket (1955) reviewed existing literature and profoundly changed the nature of investigations regarding this relationship when they concluded that there was little evidence of a connection between employee attitudes and their performance. Many researchers now consider the relationship between job satisfaction and performance among employees to be what Chapman and Chapman (1969) called an "illusory correlation" - a perceived relationship between two variables that we logically or intuitively think should interrelate, but, in fact, do not.

Previous Research Findings

Research examining the relationship between satisfaction and performance has been conducted since at least as early as 1945 (e.g., Brody, 1945), and the methodology utilized has varied greatly. Some researchers used established scales to measure job satisfaction, while some developed their own. Some used self-report ratings to assess performance, while others used peer or supervisor ratings. Populations studied include diverse groups, such as college students, homemakers, public employees, bus drivers, engineers, salespeople, military personnel, physicians, and business school faculty members (cf. Iaffaldano & Muchinsky, 1985). Estimated effect sizes range from r = -.39 (e. …

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