Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Satisfied Employees Aren't Necessarily Good Ones

Some months ago, I reported on scientific research indicating that creative (and therefore productive) employees will tend to be moodier, and perhaps a tad more rebellious, than the placid worker bees that surround them. Here is another link that restates this finding from a different perspective. According to organizational behavior expert Nathan Bowling, "although job satisfaction and job performance do correlate", satisfaction does not enhance performance, nor does performance necessarily produce satisfaction. Both are outgrowths of the underlying personality of an employee, but one does not cause the other. Individuals affected by depression, anxiety, neurosis or pessimism are unlikely to be satisfied regardless how well they do their jobs. Conversely, an outgoing personality, high self-esteem and a positive outlook may generate satisfaction in individuals, but won't necessarily make them better workers.

The best workers are distinguished primarily by intelligence and conscientiousness. Since the level of worker satisfaction is grounded in one's innate personality, Bowling suggests that "workplace interventions designed to improve performance by exclusively targeting employee satisfaction are unlikely to be effective." In other words, employers should avoid blatantly manipulative propaganda and not-so-subtle coercion in the hope of turning the rank-and-file into smiling drones. Such exercises are utterly pointless. Besides, like anything that insults one's intelligence, these efforts would antagonize the smartest - and therefore the most effective - workers most of all.

Unforturnately, the flip side of these findings is that employers would feel no qualms about dissatisfying their employees in their efforts to get them to work harder. If dissatisfaction doesn't necessarily affect work performance, then who cares how your workers feel?

"Job satisfaction doesn't guarantee performance" from Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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