Management & Organizational Behavior MGT205

‘Happy Workers are productive workers’

This statement is generally true. The idea that “happy workers are productive workers” developed in the 1930s and 1940s, largely as a result of findings drawn by researchers conducting the Hawthorne studies at Western Electric. Based on those conclusions, managers worked to make their employees happier by focusing on working conditions and the work environment. Then, in the 1980s, an influential review of the research suggested that the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance was not particularly high.  The authors of this review even went so far as to label the relationship as “illusory.”

More recently, a review of more than 300 studies corrected some errors in this earlier review. It estimated that the correlation between job satisfaction and job performance is moderately strong. This conclusion also appears to be generalizable across international contexts. The correlation is higher for complex jobs that provide employees with more discretion to act on their attitudes.

It’s important to recognize that the reverse causality might be true—productive workers are likely to be happy workers, or productivity leads to satisfaction.  In other words, if you do a good job, you intrinsically feel good about it. In addition, your higher productivity should increase your recognition, your pay level, and your probabilities for promotion. Cumulatively, these rewards, in turn, increase your level of satisfaction with the job.

It’s probably the case that both arguments are right: That satisfaction can lead to high levels of performance for some people, while for others, high performance may cause them to be satisfied.

Discussion Questions

1.    Discuss why someone who is unhappy with his/her job might work hard at it and do good work.
2.    Why would someone who is happy with his/her job not perform at a higher level than the disgruntled worker?


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