Do Happy Workers Work Hard

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DO HAPPY WORKERS WORK HARDER? The effect of job satisfaction on work performance Michael Argyle

In: Ruut Veenhoven (ed), (1989) How harmfull is happiness? Consequences of enjoying life or not, Universitaire Pers Rotterdam, The Netherlands, ISBN nr. 90 257 22809

Summary Opinions about the consequences of happiness on work differ. There is no research on the effects of life-satisfaction on productivity but there is a lot of research on the link between job satisfaction and work performance. This research shows modestly positive correlations with productivity, absenteeism and labour turnover. These correlations tend to be stronger among white collar workers. It is still largely unclear to what extent satisfaction effects productivity or vice versa. See Scheme 1. There are different claims about the effect of happiness on productivity. Some think that the enjoyment of life will produce involvement and smooth interaction, thus boosting productivity. Others rather expect that happiness will reduce the motivation to seek improvement and make them passive and dull. There is no research on the effects of overall happiness or life-satisfaction on productivity. However, there is a lot of research on the relationship between job satisfaction and work performance. Job satisfaction is quite highly correlated with overall happiness, and can be looked at as one of its main components. Hence the results of the available research data are at least suggestive in this discussion. The Human Relations movement, of Elton Mayo and others, believed that job satisfaction had beneficial effects, including increased work performance (Argyle, 1988). Let us consider whether this is in fact the case. Do satisfied workers really work harder? If they do, is it because they are satisfied or vice versa? Measuring job satisfaction How can job satisfaction be measured? The most widely used measure is a very simple one. Overall job satisfaction can be assessed by simple questions such as `Choose one of the following

Michael Argyle


Do happy workers work harder?

following statements which best tells how well you like your job: I hate it, I dislike it, I do not like it, I am indifferent to it, I like it, I am enthusiastic about it, I love it' (Hoppock, 1935). Later measures have used a series of scales to measure different components of job satisfaction. Many scales have been devised for this purpose: one book reviews no fewer than 249 scales of various kinds (Cook et al., 1981). However, one of the most widely used is the Job Description Index, which contains five scales, seventy-two items in all, which are answered `yes', `no' or `uncertain' (Smith, Kendall and Hulin, 1969). The five scales are designed to measure satisfaction in the following areas: (1) work on present job, e.g. fascinating; (2) present pay, e.g. income inadequate for normal expenses (-); (3) opportunities for promotion, e.g. fairly good chance for promotion; (4) supervision on present job, e.g. lazy (-); (5) people on present job, e.g. talk too much (-). The minus signs show reversed items, i.e. those that show dissatisfaction. It may be important to distinguish between positive and negative aspects of job satisfaction. Herzberg et al. (1959) stated that (positive) satisfaction is due to good experiences, and that these are due to `motivators' - achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility and advancement. Dissatisfaction is due to bad experiences caused by `hygiene' factors supervisors, fellow workers, company policy, working conditions, and personal life (Herzberg et al., 1959). This was supported by critical incident studies in which workers were asked to describe occasions when they had felt exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. However, the theory was supported only when this method was used. Wall et al. (1971) found that if workers were asked similar questions in an informal and confidential interview, this pattern of results was not...
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