Sunday Jun 08, 2008

Subtle Significance of Job Satisfaction

I quote the following passage from the conclusion to Dennis W. Organ's paper ("The subtle significance of job satisfaction," Clinical Laboratory Management Review, (Jan/Feb 1990) 4, no.1, 94-98):

Management research and theory have taken a long time and a torturous path in catching up with the insights of Chester Barnard. More than half a century ago, Barnard noted the essential condition of the "willingness of persons to contribute efforts to the cooperative system." This quality of willingness "is something different from effectiveness, ability, or value of personal contributions...[it] means self abnegation." Willingness is characterized by "[an] indefinitely large range of variations in its intensity among individuals" and, within individuals, "it cannot be constant in degree." Finally, this "willingness to cooperate, positive or negative, is the expression of net satisfactions and dissatisfactions experienced or anticipated."

Barnard underscored the very nature of organizations as cooperative systems. Rules, structures, policies, job descriptions, sanctions, incentives—they all play necessary roles in collaborative endeavors, but as derivatives of, not substitutes for, the underlying disposition to cooperate. Such a disposition can be sustained only by a sense of organization as a microcosm of a just world. Occasional inequities can be tolerated if there is faith that the system works fairly over the long run, with self-correcting tendencies. When faith leads to a narrowly defined, quid pro quo contractual relationship, the disposition to cooperate ebbs. Surveys show that most of the nation's labor force begins work with a fairly high degree of job satisfaction and that most of the people, most of the time, will describe themselves as "all in all, satisfied." There is a generally prevalent inclination to give the employer the benefit of a doubt—"I'll assume you're treating me fairly until you persuade me otherwise." So the disposition is generally present to render a substantial contribution via OCB [Organizational Citizenship Behavior]. A good-faith effort by managers to provide a "square deal" will do much to ensure the quality of OCB.

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