Everything you need to know about the theories of job satisfaction.

Robert Hoppock (1935), who presented the earliest definition on Job Satisfaction, describes the concept “as being any number of psychological, physiological, and environmental circumstances which leads a person to express satisfaction with their job.

Job Satisfaction is in regard to one’s feelings or state-of-mind regarding the nature of their work. Job satisfaction can be influenced by a variety of factors, e.g., the quality of one’s relationship with their supervisor, the quality of the physical environment in which they work, degree of fulfillment in their work, etc.

There are three major theories of job satisfaction, viz.,-


(1) Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory, (2) Need-fulfillment theory and (3) Social reference-group theory. Under the need- fulfillment theory it is believed that a person is satisfied if he gets what he wants and the more he wants something, or the more important it is to him, the more satisfied he is when he gets it and the more dissatisfied he is when he does not get it.

Some of the important theories of job satisfaction are:-

1. Frederick Herzberg Two Factor Theory 2. Locke’s Value Theory 3. Adam’s Equity Theory 4. Opponent Process Theory 5. Fulfillment Theory 6. Discrepancy Theory 7. Dispositional Theory and 8. Job Characteristics Model.

Theories of Job Satisfaction: Frederick Herzberg Two Factor Theory, Locke’s Value Theory, Adam’s Equity Theory and a Few Others

Theories of Job Satisfaction – 4 Important Theories: Frederick Herzberg Two Factor Theory, Locke’s Value Theory, Adam’s Equity Theory and Opponent Process Theory

Robert Hoppock (1935), who presented the earliest definition on Job Satisfaction, describes the concept “as being any number of psychological, physiological, and environmental circumstances which leads a person to express satisfaction with their job.” Vroom (1982) defined the construct “as workers’ emotional orientation toward their current job roles”.


According to Locke (1976), job satisfaction is defined as “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experiences”.

In the definitions mentioned above, there is a subjective component of a person’s appraisal of his/her satisfaction with their job. The definitions also highlight that the JS construct includes attitudes that individuals hold towards overall as well as specific aspects of their jobs.

There are variety of theories explaining what causes satisfaction to workers.

Some of the famous theories are given below:

1. Frederick Herzberg Two Factor Theory:


More than four decades back, Herzberg et al., (1959) were intrigued by the question of what people want from their jobs. They applied critical incident technique and surveyed 200 accountants and engineers from Pittsburg. They were asked to describe the events which made them feel good or bad about their jobs. The responses were tabulated as follows. Their approach is popularly known as Two Factor Theory.

According to Herzberg, there are two factors; ‘Motivators’ and ‘Hygiene factors’. It is only the motivating factors which generate job satisfaction. The very task/job and the outcomes of the job like recognition reward, responsibility, promotion, and growth have potential to generate job satisfaction.

He categorically explained that the second set of factors called ‘hygiene factors’ should be present in the organization so as to avoid dissatisfaction from job. For example power cut, poor relations with superiors and colleagues, poor pay, restrictive policies, absence of job security and so on have the power to disturb the employees. But they cannot empower the employees.

2. Locke’s Value Theory:

This theory was conceptualized by E.A. Locke. This theory states that job satisfaction occurs where job outcomes an employee receives matches with those desired by him. Accordingly, the more the employee receives as outcomes they value, the more they feel satisfied; the less they receive as outcome they value, the less they feel satisfied.

In other words, the discrepancy between present aspects of the job and the aspect desired by the employee generates job dissatisfaction. The greater the discrepancy, the greater the job dissatisfaction and vice versa. This theory invites the attention of management to those aspects of job which cause dissatisfaction and transform them so that employee feels satisfied.

3. Adam’s Equity Theory:

This theory was contributed by J.S. Adam. The basic postulate of this theory is that employees compare the ratio of output to inputs with that of others. According to him inequity occurs where a person perceives that ratio of his outcomes to inputs and the ratios of a relevant others outcome to inputs are unequal.

Inputs refers to age, gender, education, social status, organizational position, qualification, hard work, etc., while output signifies reward, pay, status, promotion, etc.

Thus perception of equity generates job satisfaction and perception of inequity causes dissatisfaction.


According to Adam, workers want equitable payment. They neither want under payment nor over payment. They need fair pay. Where the inequity exists, workers strike to alter inputs or outcomes to restore equity; cognitively distort the inputs or outcome or leave the field or act on the other or change the other.

The critics attacked this theory on the ways advocated by Adam to deal with inequity. However, this theory highlighted the need of workers to be fairly treated by management.

4. Opponent Process Theory:

This theory was developed by F.J. Landy. The crux of this theory is that constant input does not result in constant output. Initiating some change in the job may enhance worker’s satisfaction in general but may not increase satisfaction consistently over a period. Landy applied this concept in goal setting theory. Employees may resist the change aggressively in the initial stage. Consequently job satisfaction declines. But pleasure form the job increases progressively as an employee gains experience in goal setting exercises.

In other words, interventions intended to increase job satisfaction may not become popular on their introduction but it ensures satisfaction by regular practice. In sum, introducing changes in job over a period of time generates job satisfaction. A single change generates job satisfaction for a certain period. Thus introducing change should be a continuous phenomenon. It should be progressively done.

Theories of Job Satisfaction – 4 Different Theories: Fulfillment Theory, Discrepancy Theory, Equity Theory and Two-Factor Theory


There are vital differences among experts about the concept of job satisfaction. Basically, there are four approaches/theories of job satisfaction.

They are:

(i) Fulfillment theory,

(ii) Discrepancy theory,


(iii) Equity theory, and

(iv) Two-factor theory.

(i) Fulfillment Theory:

The proponents of this theory measure satisfaction in terms of rewards a person receives or the extent to which his needs are satisfied. Further, they thought that there is a direct/positive relationship between job satisfaction and the actual satisfaction of the expected needs.

The main difficulty in this approach is that job satisfaction as observed by willing, is not only a function of what a person receives but also what he feels he should receive as there would be considerable difference in the actuals and expectations of persons.

Thus, job satisfaction cannot be regarded as merely a function of how much a person receives from his job. Another important factor/variable that should be included to predict job satisfaction accurately is the strength of the individuals’ desire of his level of aspiration in a particular area. This led to the development of the discrepancy theory of job satisfaction.

(ii) Discrepancy Theory:

The proponents of this theory argue that satisfaction is the function of what a person actually receives from his job situation and what he thinks he should receive or what he expects to receive. When the actual satisfaction derived is less than expected satisfaction, it results in dissatisfaction.


“Job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are functions of the perceived relationship between what one wants from one’s job and what one perceives it is offering.” This approach does not make it clear whether or not over-satisfaction is a part of dissatisfaction and if so, how does it differ from dissatisfaction. This led to the development of equity theory of job satisfaction.

(iii) Equity Theory:

The proponents of this theory are of the view that a person’s satisfaction is determined by his perceived equity, which in turn is determined by his input-output balance compared to his comparison of others’ input-output balance. Input-output balance is the perceived ratio of what a person receives from his job relative to what he contributes to the job.

This theory is of the view that both rewards — over rewards as well as under rewards lead to dissatisfaction. An under-reward causes feelings of unfair treatment while over-reward leads to feelings of guilt and discomfort among employees.

(iv) Two-Factor Theory:

This theory was developed by Herzberg, Manusner, Peterson and Capwell who identified certain factors as satisfiers and dissatisfiers. Factors such as achievement, recognition, responsibility, etc., are satisfiers, the presence of which causes satisfaction but their absence does not result in dissatisfaction.

On the other hand, factors such as supervision, salary, working conditions, etc., are dissatisfiers, the absence of which causes dissatisfaction. Their presence, however, does not result in job satisfaction. The studies designed to test their theory failed to give any support to this theory, as it seems that a person can get both satisfaction and dissatisfaction at the same time, which is not a valid proposition.

Theories of Job Satisfaction

There are three major theories of job satisfaction, viz.,- (1) Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory, (2) Need-fulfillment theory and (3) Social reference-group theory. Under the need- fulfillment theory it is believed that a person is satisfied if he gets what he wants and the more he wants something, or the more important it is to him, the more satisfied he is when he gets it and the more dissatisfied he is when he does not get it.


The social reference-group theory is similar to need-fulfillment theory except that it takes into account not the desires, needs and interests of the individual, but rather the point of view and opinions of the group to whom the individual looks for guidance. Such groups are defined as the “reference-group” for the individual in that they define the way in which he should look at the world and evaluate various phenomena in the environment (including himself)-

It would be predicted, according to this theory, that if a job meets the interests, desires and requirements of a person’s reference group, he will like it and if it does not, he will not like it. A good example of this theory has been given by C.L. Hulin. He measured the effects of community characteristics on job satisfaction of female clerical workers employed in 300 different catalogue order offices.

He found that with job conditions held constant job satisfaction was less among women living in a well- to-do neighbourhood than among those whose neighbourhood was poor. Hulin thus provides strong evidence that such frames of reference for evaluation may be provided by one’s social groups and general social environment.

However, it is obvious that this theory gives an incomplete explanation since while some people may go along with group opinions and group evaluation of organizational phenomena many people are independent of these pressures.

In summary, the three theories respectively tell us that:

(1) Job satisfaction is a function of, or is positively related to the degree to which the various motivations or satisfiers are present in the job situation;


(2) Job satisfaction is a function of or is positively related to the degree to which one’s personal needs are fulfilled in the job situation; and

(3) Job satisfaction is a function of, or is positively related to the degree to which the characteristics of the job meet with approval and the desires of the group to which the individual looks for guidance in evaluating the world and defining social reality.

Theories of Job Satisfaction Herzberg’s Theory of Satisfying Employees or Workers in an Organisation

To apply Herzberg’s theory to real-world practice, let’s begin with the hygiene issues. Although hygiene issues are not the source of satisfaction, these issues must be dealt with first to create an environment in which employee satisfaction and motivation are even possible.

i. Company and Administrative Policies:

An organization’s policies can be a great source of frustration for employees if the policies are unclear or unnecessary or if not everyone is required to follow them. Although employees will never feel a great sense of motivation or satisfaction due to your policies, you can decrease dissatisfaction in this area by making sure your policies are fair and apply equally to all.

Also, make printed copies of your policies-and-procedures manual easily accessible to all members of your staff. If you do not have a written manual, create one, soliciting staff input along the way. If you already have a manual, consider updating it (again, with staff input). You might also compare your policies to those of similar practices and ask yourself whether particular policies are unreasonably strict or whether some penalties are too harsh.

ii. Supervision:

To decrease dissatisfaction in this area, you must begin by making wise decisions when you appoint someone to the role of supervisor. Be aware that good employees do not always make good supervisors. The role of supervisor is extremely difficult. It requires leadership skills and the ability to treat all employees fairly.


You should teach your supervisors to use positive feedback whenever possible and should establish a set means of employee evaluation and feedback so that no one feels singled out.

iii. Salary:

The old adage “you get what you pay for” tends to be true when it comes to staff members. Salary is not a motivator for employees, but they do want to be paid fairly. If individuals believe they are not compen­sated well, they will be unhappy working for you. Con­sult salary surveys or even your local help-wanted ads to see whether the salaries and benefits you’re offering are comparable to those of other offices in your area. In ad­dition, make sure you have clear policies related to sala­ries, raises and bonuses.

iv. Interpersonal Relations:

Remember that part of the satisfaction of being employed is the social contact it brings, so allow employees a reasonable amount of time for socialization (e.g., over lunch, during breaks, between patients). This will help them develop a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.

At the same time, you should crack down on rudeness, inappropriate behavior and offensive comments. If an individual continues to be disruptive, take charge of the situation, perhaps by dismissing him or her from the practice.

v. Working Conditions:

The environment in which people work has a tremendous effect on their level of pride for themselves and for the work they are doing. Do everything you can to keep your equipment and facilities up to date. Even a nice chair can make a world of difference to an individual’s psyche.

Also, if possible, avoid overcrowding and allow each employee his or her own personal space, whether it be a desk, a locker, or even just a drawer. If you have placed your employees in close quarters with little or no personal space, do not be surprised that there is tension among them.

Before you move on to the motivators, remember that you cannot neglect the hygiene factors. To do so would be asking for trouble in more than one way. First, your employees would be generally unhappy and this would be apparent to your patients. Second, your hardworking employees, who can find jobs elsewhere, would leave, while your mediocre employees would stay and compromise your practice’s success. So deal with hygiene issues first, then move on to the motivators:

vi. Work Itself:

Perhaps most important to employee motivation is helping individuals believe that the work they are doing is important arid that their tasks are meaningful. Emphasize that their contributions to the practice result in positive outcomes and good health care for your patients.

Share stories of success about how an employee’s actions made a real difference in the life of a patient, or in making a process better. Make a big deal out of meaningful tasks that may have become ordinary, such as new-baby visits.

Of course employees may not find all their tasks interesting or rewarding, but you should show the employee how those tasks are essential to the overall processes that make the practice succeed. You may find certain tasks that are truly unnecessary and can be eliminated or streamlined, resulting in greater efficiency and satisfaction.

vii. Achievement:

One premise inherent in Herzberg’s theory is that most individuals sincerely want to do a good job. To help them, make sure you have placed them in positions that use their talents and are not set up for failure. Set clear, achievable goals and standards for each position and make sure employees know what those goals and standards are.

Individuals should also receive regular, timely feedback on how they are doing and should feel they are being adequately challenged in their jobs. Be careful, however, not to overload individuals with challenges that are too difficult or impossible, as that can be paralyzing.

viii. Recognition:

Individuals at all levels of the organization want to be recognized for their achievements on the job. Their successes do not have to be monumental before they deserve recognition, but your praise should be sincere.

If you notice employees doing something well, take the time to acknowledge their good work immediately. Publicly thank them for handling a situation particularly well. Write them a kind note of praise. Or give them a bonus, if appropriate. You may even want to establish a formal recognition program, such as “employee of the month.”

ix. Responsibility:

Employees will be more motivated to do their jobs well if they have ownership of their work. This requires giving employees enough freedom and power to carry out their tasks so that they feel they “own” the result. As individuals mature in their jobs, provide opportunities for added responsibility.

Be careful, however, that you do not simply add more work. Instead, find ways to add challenging and meaningful work, perhaps giving the employee greater freedom and authority as well.

x. Advancement:

Reward loyalty and performance with advancement. If you do not have an open position to which to promote a valuable employee, consider giving him or her a new title that reflects the level of work he or she has achieved. When feasible, support employees by allowing them to pursue further education, which will make them more valuable to your practice and more fulfilled professionally.

Theories of Job Satisfaction 4 Main Theories: Affect Theory, Dispositional Theory, Motivator-Hygiene Theory and Job Characteristics Model

1. Affect Theory:

Edwin A. Locke’s Range of Affect Theory (1976) is arguably the most famous job satisfaction model. The main premise of this theory is that satisfaction is determined by a discrepancy between what one wants in a job and what one has in a job. Further, the theory states that how much one values a given facet of work (e.g., the degree of autonomy in a position) moderates how satisfied/dissatisfied one becomes when expectations are/ aren’t met.

When a person values a particular facet of a job, his satisfaction is more greatly impacted both positively (when expectations are met) and negatively (when expectations are not met), compared to one who doesn’t value that facet.

To illustrate, if Employee A values autonomy in the workplace and Employee B is indifferent about autonomy, then Employee A would be more satisfied in a position that offers a high degree of autonomy and less satisfied in a position with little or no autonomy compared to Employee B. This theory also states that too much of a particular facet will produce stronger feelings of dissatisfaction the more a worker values that facet.

2. Dispositional Theory:

Another well-known job satisfaction theory is the Dispositional Theory. It is a very general theory that suggests that people have innate dispositions that cause them to have tendencies toward a certain level of satisfaction, regardless of one’s job.

This approach became a notable explanation of job satisfaction in light of evidence that job satisfaction tends to be stable overtime and across careers and jobs. Research also indicates that identical twins have similar levels of job satisfaction.

A significant model that narrowed the scope of the Dispositional Theory was the Core Self-evaluations Model, proposed by Timothy A. Judge in 1998. Judge argued that there are four Core Self-evaluations that determine one’s disposition towards job satisfaction- self-esteem, general self-efficacy, locus of control and neuroticism.

This model states that higher levels of self-esteem (the value one places on his/her self) and general self-efficacy (the belief in one’s own competence) lead to higher work satisfaction. Having an internal locus of control (believing one has control over her\his own life, as opposed to outside forces having control) leads to higher job satisfaction. Finally, lower levels of neuroticism lead to higher job satisfaction.

3. Two-Factor Theory (Motivator-Hygiene Theory):

Frederick Herzberg’s Two factor theory (also known as Motivator Hygiene Theory) attempts to explain satisfaction and motivation in the workplace. This theory states that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are driven by different factors – motivation and hygiene factors, respectively. An employee’s motivation to work is continually related to job satisfaction of a subordinate.

Motivation can be seen as an inner force that drives individuals to attain personal and organization goals. Motivating factors are those aspects of the job that make people want to perform and provide people with satisfaction, for example achievement in work, recognition, promotion opportunities.

These motivating factors are considered to be intrinsic to the job, or the work carried out. Hygiene factors include aspects of the working environment such as pay, company policies, supervisory practices and other working conditions.

While Hertzberg’s model has stimulated much research, researchers have been unable to reliably empirically prove the model, with Hackman & Oldham suggesting that Hertzberg’s original formulation of the model may have been a methodological artefact.

Furthermore, the theory does not consider individual differences, conversely predicting all employees will react in an identical manner to changes in motivating/hygiene factors Finally, the model has been criticized in that it does not specify how motivating/hygiene factors are to be measured.

4. Job Characteristics Model:

Hackman & Oldham proposed the Job Characteristics Model, which is widely used as a framework to study how particular job characteristics impact on job outcomes, including job satisfaction.

The model states that there are five core job characteristics (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback) which impact three critical psychological states (experienced meaningfulness, experienced responsibility for outcomes and knowledge of the actual results), in turn influencing work outcomes (job satisfaction, absenteeism, work motivation, etc.).

The five core job characteristics can be combined to form a motivating potential score (MPS) for a job, which can be used as an index of how likely a job is to affect an employee’s attitudes and behaviors. A meta-analysis of studies that assess the framework of the model provides some support for the validity of the JCM.

Job Satisfaction is in regard to one’s feelings or state-of-mind regarding the nature of their work. Job satisfaction can be influenced by a variety of factors, e.g., the quality of one’s relationship with their supervisor, the quality of the physical environment in which they work, degree of fulfilment in their work, etc.