When Job Satisfaction Does (Doesn’t) Matter for Performance

Topic: PerformancePersonality
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (MAR 2010)
Article: Effects of job satisfaction and conscientiousness on extra-role behaviors
Authors: N.A. Bowling
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

It’s hard to overstate the importance of “extra-role behaviors” from an organizational perspective.  Extra-role behaviors are voluntary work behaviors (i.e., may not be explicitly required of employees), and they come in two basic flavors: organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs). OCBs are intended to help the organization and/or its members (e.g., stay late to help a coworker), while CWBs are intended to harm the organization and/or its members (e.g., steal materials, sabotage another coworker).  As you might expect, both can have a big impact on the bottom line!

While it may seem intuitive that an employee’s level of job satisfaction would determine how often he/she engages in OCBs and CWBs, research suggests that job satisfaction and performance are only weakly related (at least when measured at the individual employee level).  Bowling (2010) recently found that this may be at least partially due to the fact that employees differ in their levels of conscientiousness.

Aside from being a manager’s dream, conscientious employees are generally hard working, attentive to detail, and well organized. In Bowling’s study of 209 employees working in a variety of organizations and industries, he found that job satisfaction was a strong predictor of certain OCBs (i.e., taking extra special care when performing job duties) for employees low in conscientiousness.  For employees high in conscientiousness, job satisfaction did not predict the occurrence of these OCBs because employees high in conscientiousness engage in lots of OCBs regardless of their level of job satisfaction.  Similarly, employees high in conscientiousness tend not to engage in many CWBs in general; thus, job satisfaction is a better predictor of CWBs for less conscientious employees.

Bowling’s results clearly support the use of conscientiousness measures in employee selection.  Weeding out job applicants who score low on conscientiousness can pay off in terms of more OCBs and fewer CWBs.  But, for current employees who happen to be low in conscientiousness, organizational interventions intended to improve employee job satisfaction may be particularly useful.

Bowling, N. A. (2010). Effects of job satisfaction and conscientiousness on extra-role behaviors. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25, 119-130.