Job Satisfaction is a Rollercoaster…Really, it is!

Topic: Job Attitudes
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (JUL 2009)
Article: Changes in newcomer job satisfaction over time: Examining the pattern of honeymoons and hangovers
Authors: W. R. Boswell, A. J. Shipp, S. C. Payne, & S. S. Culbertson
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Think back to your last job offer. Do you remember how you felt initially? Was it something like: “Yes, I got a new job!  It’s going to be great!” These initial “good” feelings about the job are common and usually carry over into the job (i.e., high levels of job satisfaction). BUT, as Boswell and colleagues (2009) found in a recent study, after the initial honeymoon is over, job satisfaction can plummet (the hangover).

Boswell et al. surveyed 132 new employees of a large, technology-based organization. The employees were surveyed on their first day of work and then at three-month increments for the first full year of employment. Participants in the study represented a wide variety of jobs and levels within the organization (executive, professional, clerical, etc.).

Interestingly, the results of the study suggest that in general, job satisfaction tends to
peak initially and then drop off after about 6 months on the job. This honeymoon-hangover pattern was most prominent for employees who reported being dissatisfied with
their previous jobs. Oddly, and contrary to expectations, this honeymoon-hangover pattern was also prominent for employees reporting more positive experiences in the new job (weird, right?).

Overall, organizations should expect employees to be highly satisfied with their jobs shortly after organizational entry but should also be prepared for systematic drops in job satisfaction after several months on the job. Fortunately, Boswell et al.’s findings suggest that the declines in job satisfaction tapper off eventually.  A final point to take home is that the better the honeymoon (i.e., higher job satisfaction initially) the greater chance for a bad hangover (substantial drop in job satisfaction).

Boswell, W.R., Shipp, A.J., Payne, S.C., & Culbertson, S.S. (2009). Changes in newcomer job satisfaction over time: Examining the pattern of honeymoons and hangovers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(4), 844-858.