Mainstream theories of human behavior, including those for motivation and organizational behavior, suggest that job satisfaction is complex, multi-level, and dynamic. Four examples bear this out: The phenomenon of rising expectations posits that consumers are never satisfied after obtaining what they had initially wanted. Almost a day after finally driving one’s first “dream” car, an affordable and fuel-efficient Toyota, the consumer has already set his aspirations higher for a BMW or “muscle truck” on his next purchase. Much the same could be said for every raise and promotion an employee is awarded: the enlarged salary is once again wiped out by “new needs”.
Herzberg’s two-factor theory of hygiene and motivation suggests that leaders should be wary of building job satisfaction programs around factors that employees consider givens: company stability, timely pay, comfortable working environment, health benefits, quality; of supervision, and relationships with co-workers. As long as these are present, employees take their work with the company for granted. But if these are withdrawn or are allowed to deteriorate, dissatisfaction quickly arises.
Maslow proposed a sequential hierarchy of motivation, arguing that humans first attempt to satisfy the “physiological needs” for food, shelter, sex, and warmth before seeking to satisfy other levels of need. Translated to the industrial setting, one discerns that employees are concerned, first of all, with receiving a living wage and buying some outlet or other for sexual drives. Only when these are satisfied do higher-order needs for security, affection, belonging, respect, and self-actualization come into play.
A wide spectrum of situational and organizational behavior factors also impinge on job satisfaction. Company leadership that provokes teamwork and commitment in the face of stiff competition, typified by the car industry, is a vital contributor to job satisfaction. The other side of the coin is that in the face of a still-deepening recession and layoffs in the hundreds of thousands each month, poor job satisfaction can take the backseat to job security.