Work-Related Attitudes

How can managers and organizations develop a committed workforce?
When we apply the concept of attitudes to work settings, we have to specify which attitude we are concerned with. Although a variety of work-related attitudes can be identified, the one receiving the most attention is job satisfaction. As this is one of the most widely studied concepts in organizational behavior, we will examine it here in some detail.

Job Involvement and Organizational Commitment
First, however, we should introduce two job attitudes that should also be recognized: job involvement and organizational commitment. Job involvement refers to the extent to which a person is interested in and committed to assigned tasks. This is not to say that the person is “happy” (or satisfied) with the job, only that he feels a certain responsibility toward ensuring that the job itself is done correctly and with a high standard of competence. Here the focus of the attitude is the job itself.30

Job Satisfaction
Job satisfaction may be defined as “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experience.”32 It results from the perception that an employee’s job actually provides what he values in the work situation.

Several characteristics of the concept of job satisfaction follow from this definition. First, satisfaction is an emotional response to a job situation. It can be fully understood only by introspection. As with any attitude, we cannot observe satisfaction; we must infer its existence and quality either from an employee’s behavior or verbal statements.

Dimensions of Job Satisfaction. It has been argued that job satisfaction actually represents several related attitudes. So, when we speak of satisfaction, we must specify “satisfaction with what?” Research has suggested that five job dimensions represent the most salient characteristics of a job about which people have affective responses. These five are:

Work itself. The extent to which tasks performed by employees are interesting and provide opportunities for learning and for accepting responsibility.
Pay. The amount of pay received, the perceived equity of the pay, and the method of payment.
Promotional opportunities. The availability of realistic opportunities for advancement.
Supervision. The technical and managerial abilities of supervisors; the extent to which supervisors demonstrate consideration for and interest in employees.
Coworkers. The extent to which coworkers are friendly, technically competent, and supportive.
Although other dimensions of job satisfaction have been identified, these five dimensions are used most often when assessing various aspects of job attitudes in organizations.

The MSQ and similar rating scales have several advantages for evaluating levels of job satisfaction. First, they are relatively short and simple and can be completed by large numbers of employees quickly. Second, because of the generalized wording of the various terms, the instruments can be administered to a wide range of employees in various jobs. It is not necessary to alter the questionnaire for each job classification. Finally, extensive normative data (or norms) are available. These norms include summaries of the scores of thousands of people who have completed the instruments. Hence, it is possible for employers in other organizations to determine relative standings.

However, although rating scales have many virtues compared to other techniques, at least two drawbacks must be recognized. First, as with any self-report inventory, it is assumed that respondents are both willing and able to describe their feelings accurately. As noted by several researchers,34 people often consciously or unconsciously distort information that they feel is damaging and enhance information that they feel is beneficial. For example, it is possible that employees who think their supervisors may see the results of their questionnaire may report overly favorable job attitudes.

A second problem with rating scales is the underlying assumption that questionnaire items mean the same thing to all people. There may, in fact, not be a common interpretation across individuals. Even so, rating scales have proved to be helpful in assessing satisfaction in various aspects of the job situation. Managers can use the results to identify potential problem areas and to generate discussions and action plans of how to correct aspects of jobs or the organization that are causing unacceptable levels of dissatisfaction.