Job Satisfaction and Well-Being

With the emergence of the field of positive psychology, increasing attention has been paid to factors contributing to general well-being. Job satisfaction has been identified as a major component of general well-being. Meta-analysis has found a correlation of .44 between measures of job satisfaction and general well-being. Given the many life areas impacted by work, it has been argued by some that job satisfaction may contribute more to nonwork related life satisfaction than the obverse. Unfortunately, only limited research has been conducted to explore the specifics of the relationship between job satisfaction and general well-being. However, person-environment fit models, such as the theory of work adjustment (TWA), appear to offer a solid starting point for such inquiries.

Goal Attainment

Discussions of general well-being often emphasize the importance of goal directedness and goal attainment to well-being. Given the extensive person-environment fit literature demonstrating significant relationships between job fit and job satisfaction, it has been suggested that these models might provide direction regarding which goals to aim for and provide an aid for understanding the motivation to achieve one’s goals. Currently, TWA is the person-environment fit model that is most amenable to making linkages between job satisfaction and general well-being. TWA views work as an interactive and reciprocal process between the individual and the work environment. In simplest terms, individuals may be viewed as fulfilling the labor requirements of the work environment in exchange for the work environment fulfilling a wide range of financial, social, and psychological needs for the individual. The TWA instrumentation developed to operationalize job satisfaction uses 20 dimensions: ability utilization, achievement, activity level, independence, variety, compensation, job security, working conditions, opportunity for advancement, recognition, authority, social status, coworker relations, social relevance, moral values, company policies, supervision (human relations), supervision (technical), creativity, and responsibility. Clearly, these dimensions reflect a mixture of both motivating factors and end goals.

Hedonic and Eudemonic Perspectives

Most models of well-being may be categorized as either hedonic or eudemonic in perspective. The hedonic perspective defines well-being in terms of pleasure attainment and pain avoidance. The eudemonic perspective focuses on meaning and self-realization and defines well-being in terms of doing what is worthwhile. Although, the reinforcer dimensions of TWA reflect aspects of both the hedonic and eudemonic models, given the model’s overall emphasis on satisfaction of needs, one might conclude that it leans more toward the hedonic perspective. However, structural analysis of the 20 reinforcer dimensions suggests there are six underlying dimensions or values. These values have been labeled achievement, comfort, status, altruism, safety, and autonomy. Achievement reflects making use of one’s abilities and feelings of accomplishment. Comfort reflects feeling comfortable and an absence of stress or distress. Status reflects gaining recognition from and/or having authority over others. Altruism reflects helping others and having a sense of doing good deeds for others. Safety reflects an appreciation for structure and order and an absence of unpredictability. Autonomy reflects being independent and feeling in control. Viewed on this level, TWA appears fairly balanced between eudemonic and hedonic perspectives of well-being.

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Well-being researchers have differentiated between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to doing an activity for the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself. In contrast, extrinsic motivation refers to doing an activity to attain some separable reward. This closely parallels the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction in TWA. In TWA, intrinsic job satisfaction reflects aspects that are inherent to the job itself (e.g., feelings of accomplishment), and extrinsic job satisfaction reflects aspects that are not inherent to the job itself and that are usually under the control of the work environment (e.g., salary). It should be noted that in the well-being literature, it has been argued that individuals who are motivated intrinsically tend to experience greater levels of well-being than individuals who are extrinsically motivated. However, TWA makes no differential predictions; job satisfaction arises from the degree of correspondence between worker needs and job reinforcers regardless of whether the most salient of these dimensions are categorized as being related to extrinsic or intrinsic job satisfaction.

The Social Ecological Approach

Rudolph Moos’s social ecological approach (also referred to as the life domains model) proposes that individuals may be conceptualized as existing within a constellation of overlapping environments, or life domains. Some of these domains are self, marriage, family, friends, work, and health. Moos developed 10 Social Climate Scales to characterize the most salient dimensions found across a range of domains. Although specifics vary from domain to domain, Moos found that the broad categories of relationship, personal development and system maintenance, and system change are cross-cutting. This finding is considered by some reviewers to be of major importance to the well-being literature. The relationship dimensions assess the degree people in a given setting support one another and feel free to express themselves openly. The personal development dimensions assess basic goals of a given setting and how personal development and self-enhancement occur in that setting. The system maintenance and system change dimensions assess the clarity with which an environment states its goals, how it maintains control, and how it responds to change. The TWA need-reinforcer dimensions may be mapped onto Moos’s three cross-cutting categories. Structural analysis of the six TWA work values suggest that they may be grouped into internal, social, or environmental reinforcer areas, categories whose interpretation echoes those of the cross-cutting categories proposed by Moos.

Value Contrasts

Further structural analysis suggests that the six TWA values form contrasts. Achievement contrasts with comfort. On one hand, it is often not possible to attain difficult goals without stress, sacrifice, and discomfort. On the other hand, a comfortable, stress-free life may come at the cost of giving up ambitions. Altruism contrasts with status. Altruism focuses on the well-being of others, whereas status focuses on self-advancement and self-promotion. Finally, autonomy contrasts with safety. A highly autonomous person depends upon him- or herself independent of environment. A person with high safety needs depends on the environment to provide order and structure, while also depending on retaining control over the choice of environment to be in. These value contrasts have the potential to help individuals understand value conflicts, experienced both internally and in interaction with environments, and highlight that choices and/or compromises may need to be made when seeking either job or general life satisfaction.


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