Director of Academic Service Learning, Assistant Professor of Management, Woodbury School of Business Utah Valley University, 800 W. University Parkway, MS-119, Orem, UT 84058-5999 USA
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Job Satisfaction, Cross-National, Worker Attitudes, Post/Neo-Fordism
Job Satisfaction is a widely studied are across many academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, economics, and the management sciences (see Hunt and Saul, 1975; Freeman, 1978; Kalleberg and Loscocco, 1983; Hodson, 1985; Argyle, 1989; Durst and DeSantis, 1997; Hamermesh, 2001; Wright and Kim, 2004; Jung et al., 2007). Researchers have shown that satisfied employees are more productive (Appelbaum and Kamal, 2000), deliver higher quality of work (Tietjen and Myers, 1998), and improve a firm's competitiveness and success (Garrido et al., 2005). Conversely, unsatisfied workers are more frequently late for work, absent from work, and motivated to leave the firm (Blau, 1994; Lee, 1998). Additionally, job satisfaction continues to play an important role, as the landscape of work across the world has been changing dramatically over the past 15-20 years in response to economic shifts, technological advances, and an increasingly global economy (e.g. Handel, 2005; Jamison et al., 2004).
The vast cross-disciplinary literature exploring work quality and job satisfaction has linked worker experiences to many individual, organizational, and social outcomes, yet this research has largely failed to shed much light on why cross-national differences in worker satisfaction and its determinants persist over time. An often accepted job satisfaction model, commonly considered to be widely generalizable across a wide variety of cross-cultural and cross-national contexts, actually appears to have a lack of applicability across countries (see Westover, 2012a, 2012b; Westover, 2011, 2010a, 2010b; Taylor and Westover, 2011; Westover and Taylor, 2010).
The core questions driving this research are: (1) what are the empirical cross-national differences in job characteristics and job satisfaction, and (2) what are the causes behind these differences? Cross-cultural researchers would suggest that any such differences would all be due to cultural differences between countries. However, the limited research that explores work quality characteristics and job satisfaction from a cross-cultural perspective has largely failed to show how countries with similar cultural orientations still experience significant differences and how countries with different cultural orientations still experience similarities.
The question remains, what are the causes for these country differences. More specifically, what are the key country-level contextual and global-macro variables driving these country differences in job characteristics and perceived worker satisfaction (which is of increasing relevance in the age of an ever more globalized economy and hyper-competitive global marketplace)? Existing research cannot answer these and other related questions. Like many work attitudes, job satisfaction is a dynamic construct that changes in response to personal and environmental conditions. Monitoring job satisfaction over time and in different contexts will allow one to better examine and understand the salient factors that affect job satisfaction.
The overall purpose in conducting this research is to (1) empirically test (using various bivariate descriptive procedures and comparative OLS regression) significant, cross-national differences in job satisfaction and its determents and (2) explore the reasons for these cross-national differences, moving beyond the research of social psychologists and organizational behavior researchers, to also include import macro cross-national factors that directly influence these differences.
The Conceptualization of Job Satisfaction
Job satisfaction has been conceptualized in different ways, from the degree to which people like their jobs (Spector, 1997), to the degree of fit between the features of a job and workers’ expectations (Tutuncu and Kozak, 2007), explanations of person-environment fit or needs-satisfaction (Kristof-Brown, 1996; Traut et al., 2000; Ellickson, 2002), to a multidimensional attitude of workers towards their jobs and work places (Clark and Oswald, 1996; Davis and Newstrom, 1999; Hamermesh, 2001). Additionally, theorists and researchers alike have often looked at job satisfaction in terms of nonmaterial (intrinsic) and nonmaterial (extrinsic) rewards (Handel 2005; Kalleberg 1977).
Overview of the Post/Neo-Fordism Job satisfaction Link
There are various explanations for why and how job satisfaction and its work determinants can differ cross-nationally, based on national contextual factors. One theoretical perspective that can provide some explanations for why and how job satisfaction and its work determinants can differ cross-nationally is the Post/Neo-Fordist paradigm (Priore and Sabel, 1984; Hirst and Zeitlin, 1991; Graham, 1993; Amin, 1994; Harrison, 1994; Mishel et al., 2001), built from the early scientific management innovations of Frederick Winslow Taylor and the application of those principles to the assembly line method of production by Henry Ford (see Hodkinson, 1997; Amin, 1994; Hersey and Blanchard, 1982; Vroom, 1964).
Post-Fordism is typified by the word ‘flexibility’, in which labor and resources are strategically used to (1) enable production systems to be responsive to market changes and cycles, and (2) encourage workers to develop new skills in order to be able to operate across a range of tasks. It emphasizes a de-industrialization in the economy, i.e. a shift from the compartmentalization of labor characterized in classical Fordism, to greater employee involvement and the use of self-managed work teams and other such practices (Priore and Sabel, 1984; Hirst and Zeitlin, 1991). The Post-Fordist management paradigm and resulting workplace outcomes are most closely linked with service-sector businesses, and Post-Fordists argue that the overall intrinsic quality of jobs for most workers in the western industrialized world has increased in the last 20 years, with a shift to increased job skill requirements, task variety, and job autonomy, resulting in greater job enrichment and workplace cooperation (Hersey and Blanchard, 1982; Hirst and Zeitlin, 1991).
The other off-shoot of traditional Fordism is the Neo-Fordist framework, which maintains the basic principles of the traditional firm held by Fordism. It, however, accentuates other principles, such as inequality between management and labor, and combines the logic of mass production and mass consumption with more flexible production, distribution, and marketing systems (Graham, 1993; Harrison, 1994; Mishel et al., 2001). Scholars have pointed out that the increased frequency of mass layoffs, and overseas outsourcing, and the use of contingent employment have diminished workers’ overall job security, while workloads have continued to increase without a commensurate rise in pay (Harrison, 1994; Handel, 2005). The Neo-Fordist management paradigm and resulting workplace outcomes are most closely linked with industrial-sector businesses, and Neo-Fordists argue that the overall extrinsic quality of jobs for most workers in the western industrialized world has declined in the last 20 years (Harrison, 1994; Handel, 2005).
Both Post and Neo-Fordist perspectives are important to the cross-national examination of job quality characteristics and job satisfaction, because they provide one important avenue for understanding why and how job satisfaction and its work determinants can differ cross-nationally, based on national contextual factors. The job quality characteristics typified by non-industrial, service oriented jobs of the Post-Fordist perspective suggest that in national economies with a greater level of service sector domination, workers will be more greatly motivated and satisfied by intrinsic workplace characteristics and conditions. On the other hand, the job quality characteristics typified by the predominantly industrial, production-oriented jobs of the Neo-Fordist perspective suggest that in national economies with larger industrial sectors relative to overall service sector domination, workers will be more greatly motivated and satisfied by extrinsic workplace characteristics and conditions. Thus, Post and Neo-Fordist perspectives provide an important conceptual tool in the cross-national examination of job quality characteristics and job satisfaction.
Description of Data
This research utilizes non-panel longitudinal data from the International Social Survey Program (ISSP: Work Orientations modules I, II, and III: 1989, 1997, 2005—various survey questions on job characteristics and job quality). The International Social Survey Program Work Orientations modules utilized a multistage stratified probability sample to collect the data for each of the various countries with a variety of eligible participants in each country’s target population1. The Work Orientations module focuses on the areas of general attitudes toward work and leisure, work organization, and work content2. Variables of interest in the data collected by the International Social Survey Program are single-item indicators (i.e. with a single survey question for job satisfaction, interesting work, job autonomy, workplace relations, etc., on a Likert scale). For the purposes of this study, the units of analysis are individuals within the separate sovereign nations. In addition to examining one large sample including all respondents from all participating countries, a separate sample for each country is also examined to determine which job characteristics best predict job satisfaction in that particular country and then make cross-national comparisons (see also Westover, 2008a, 2008b, 2010a, 2010b, 2011, 2012a, 2012b; Taylor and Westover, 2011).
With 11 countries included in 1989, 26 countries included in 1997, and 32 countries included in 2005, it is important to note where the study countries fall within the broader world context (272 world countries identified by the CIA World Factbook for 2005). Table 1 below shows the countries included in each wave of the study. In 1989, the 11 countries participating in the study were primarily Western European nations, in addition to the United States, Israel, and Hungary. In 1997, the number of participating countries increased to 26, with several more former Eastern Bloc nations—in addition to Hungary—participating, a greater number of European countries participating, as well as nations from the Asia participating for the first time. Additionally, Canada joined the U.S.A. as the only other North American country participating in the study. In 2005, the number of participating countries again increased, this time to 32 nations, with a handful of the 1997 nations dropping out and more European, Central American, and Asian countries participating. Once more, in 2005 South Africa became the only nation from the African continent to participate.
|West Germany||West Germany||Australia|
|Great Britain||East Germany||Germany|
|USA||Great Britain||East Germany|
|Norway||Czech Republic||Czech Republic|
Table 1: Study Countries by Year
This research follows Westover’s (2008a, 2008b, 2010a, 2010b, 2011, 2012a, 2012b) job satisfaction model (based on Kalleberg’s 1977 findings and Handel’s 2005 study) for conducting a cross-national comparison of job satisfaction and the perceived importance of intrinsic and extrinsic job quality characteristic variations across countries (see also Spector, 1997; Souza-Poza and Souza-Poza, 2000; Munoz de Bustillo Llorente and Fernandez Macias, 2005; Westover, 2008a, 2008b, 2010a, 2010b, 2011, 2012a, 2012b). Handel (2005) characterized 12 variables from the General Social Survey into intrinsic and extrinsic job quality factors. Ten of the 12 variables used by Handel are available for all countries in each of the three waves of the International Social Survey data used for this study and are outlined below.
Key Job Quality Characteristics Related to Job Satisfaction
All variables are single-item measures based on the survey questions below (See also Westover, 2008a, 2008b, 2010a, 2010b, 2011a, 2011b).
Individual Control Variables
Though the literature has identified many important individual control variables, due to limitations in data availability, control variables used were limited to the following, individual characteristics (see Westover, 2008a, 2008b, 2010a, 2010b, 2011, 2012a, 2012b): full-time/part-time status, self-employment status, gender, age, marital status, and education (see Hammermesh, 1999; Souza-Poza and Souza-Poza, 2000; Hodson, 2002; Carlson and Mellor, 2004).
Country Contextual Variables
This research utilizes the following country-contextual variables as proxies for the Post and Neo-Fordist paradigms: (1) Percentage Service Sector Economy (Post-Fordism), and (2) Percentage Industrial Sector Economy (Neo-Fordism). Data for both variables was collected from the CIA World Factbook. Additionally, high/low dummy variables were created for both of the contextual variables above using sample mean scores as the cut-off point.
Figure 1 below depicts the overall theoretical model of the influences on job quality and overall job satisfaction. In addition to the various intrinsic and extrinsic factors examined in most satisfaction research, this model also includes commonly omitted factors, including country-specific contextual variables, including national-level economic variables. I argue that each of these macro-level conditions set the stage for job quality conditions and worker satisfaction within a given nation. Furthermore, as a result of differing macro-level and differing job quality conditions, countries will have a difference in intrinsic and extrinsic work quality factors and their saliency to perceived satisfaction.
First, this research uses data from the International Social Survey to perform a descriptive statistical analysis of work characteristics and job satisfaction for individual countries and across nations. These bivariate and multivariate analyses include trend analysis, correlations, ANOVA and ANCOVA procedures, cross-tabulations, as well as general descriptive statistics of job quality characteristics and job satisfaction in each country to provide descriptive comparative similarities and differences between countries. Additionally, both aggregate and country-specific OLS regression models of the impact of individual work characteristics on job satisfaction were generated to provide additional comparison between countries8.
Limitations of Data
One of the primary limitations of the available attitudinal data is that each question represents a subjective single item indicator (see Souza-Poza and Souza-Poza, 2005; Diener et al., 1999). Another problem is the non-panel longitudinal nature of the data. This research uses three waves of cross-sectional data and therefore one cannot specifically test the direction of causality among the variables examined as would be possible with panel longitudinal data. Additionally, some variables of interest (i.e. work-related stress) and other important control variables cannot be included in the analysis, as data are not available for each wave of data collection across all countries of interest.
There are various explanations for why and how job satisfaction and its work determinants can differ cross-nationally, based on national contextual factors. One of these explanations is embodied in Post-Fordist theory, which emphasizes a de-industrialization in the economy and is characterized by a shift from the compartmentalization of labor characterized in classical Fordist model, to greater employee involvement and the use of self-managed work teams and other such practices (Priore and Sabel, 1984; Hirst and Zeitlin, 1991). The Post-Fordist management paradigm and resulting workplace outcomes are most closely linked with service-sector businesses, and Post-Fordists argue that the overall intrinsic quality of jobs for most workers in the western industrialized world has increased in the last 20 years, with a shift to increased job skill requirements, task variety, and job autonomy, resulting in greater job enrichment and workplace cooperation (Hersey and Blanchard, 1982; Hirst and Zeitlin, 1991).
There is also the Neo-Fordist framework, which maintains the basic principles of the traditional firm held by Fordism, yet combines the logic of mass production and mass consumption with more flexible production, distribution, and marketing systems (Graham, 1993; Harrison, 1994; Mishel et al., 2001). The Neo-Fordist management paradigm and resulting workplace outcomes are most closely linked with industrial-sector businesses, and Neo-Fordists argue that the overall extrinsic quality of jobs for most workers in the western industrialized world has declined in the last 20 years (Harrison, 1994; Handel, 2005). Thus, these frameworks lead to the following two-part hypothesis:
H1a: In countries with more dominant service sector economies, intrinsic work characteristics and work relationships will be most salient to workers and provide the most predictability in overall perceived job satisfaction.
H1b: In countries with less dominant service sector economies (larger industrial sector), extrinsic work characteristics will be most salient to workers and provide the most predictability in overall perceived job satisfaction.
Mean job satisfaction was found to vary by country and wave9. Specifically, for those six countries included in all three waves (West Germany, Great Britain, United States, Hungary, Norway, and Israel), all but Israel (which increased in each wave) saw a dip in mean job satisfactions scores from 1989 to 1997 and then a rebound from 1997 to 2005 with 2005 levels surpassing 1989 levels. Additionally, New Zealand, the Philippines, Spain, France, Cyprus, and Denmark were the only countries of the 22 countries included in both the 1997 and 2005 waves that saw a decline in mean job satisfaction from 1997 to 2005.
Intercorrelations among the Main Study Variables
Job satisfaction was found to be significantly related to each of the main study variables in each wave of the study (1989, 1997, and 2005)10: management/employee relations, coworker relations, job autonomy, interesting work, job security, pay, promotional opportunities, workload, physical effort, and danger. The relationships of the study variables appear to be in the anticipated direction.
OLS regression model specifications for each country across the three waves of the study show significant differences in model predictability from country to country and from year to year11. In 1989, West Germany has the highest adjusted r-squared (0.4991), while Hungary has the lowest (0.2232). In 1997, Canada (0.4874) and Great Britain (0.4809) have the highest adjusted r-squared values, while the Philippines has the lowest adjusted r-squared (0.1686). In 2005, Cyprus had far and away the highest (0.6866), followed by France (0.5701) and Australia (0.5293). Flanders (Belgium) and the Philippines each had by far the lowest adjusted r-squared values, at 0.1753 and 0.1896 respectively.
Among the various explanations for why and how job satisfaction and its work determinants can differ cross-nationally, one such possible explanation is embodied in the Post-Fordist/Neo-Fordist paradigms. Post-Fordism emphasizes a de-industrialization in the economy, with workplace outcomes most closely linked with service-sector businesses and intrinsic workplace characteristics (Hersey and Blanchard, 1982; Priore and Sabel, 1984; Hirst and Zeitlin, 1991), while the Neo-Fordist framework maintains the basic principles of the traditional firm held by Fordism, with workplace outcomes most closely linked with industrial-sector businesses and extrinsic workplace characteristics (Harrison, 1994; Handel, 2005).
To examine whether or not sectoral composition would thus impact the relative saliency of either intrinsic or extrinsic work characteristics on worker satisfaction, data on the service sector as a percentage of the total economy and industrial sector as a percentage of the total economy were compiled for each of the 32 nations in wave three. Dummy variables were created (based on overall sample means) to designate whether a country had a high (>65%) or low level (<65%) of service sector economy (GDP composition by sector), as well as a high (>30%) or low (<30%) level of industrial sector economy (relative to the 32 countries in the wave). Then mean scores for the main study variables and OLS regression models were run for each sample (high/low service sector nations and high/low industrial sector nations) to allow for comparison of intrinsic and extrinsic work characteristics and their ability to predict job satisfaction. These results are presented in Tables 4 and 5 below.
Table 2 shows the comparative mean score of main study variables by percentage level of service and industrial sector of the economy. There is very little difference between mean job satisfaction and job characteristics scores for countries that have a relatively higher level of service or industrial sector.
|% Service Sector||% Industrial Sector|
Table 2: Comparative Mean Scores of Main Study Variables, by Level of Service/Industrial Sector Economy, 2005
Furthermore, Table 3 shows OLS regression results by level of service/industrial sector of the economy12. It is noteworthy that overall model fit and predictability of job satisfaction levels is much higher for high service sector/low industrial sector countries and than their low service sector/high industrial sector counterparts. It is also noteworthy that each of the intrinsic factors (“management/employee relations,” “coworker relations,” “job autonomy,” and “interesting work” have stronger standardized beta coefficients in the high service/low industrial sector countries (all are highly significant in each country). Once more, the extrinsic factors, with the exception of “job security” (“pay,” “promotional opportunities,” “workload,” “physical effort,” and “danger”) have slightly stronger standardized beta coefficients in the low service/high industrial sector countries (all are highly significant in each country accept “physical effort” and “danger”) and the extrinsic factor, “danger,” is only significant in the low service/high industrial sector countries.
|% Service Sector||% Industrial Sector|
|Years of Education||-0.051***||-0.036***||-0.034***||-0.075***|
Level of significance: * = p < .05; ** = p < .01; *** = p < .001; Beta Values
Table 3: OLS Regression Results of Study Variables on Job Satisfaction, by Level of Service/Industrial Sector Economy, 2005
Thus, based on comparative OLS regression results of job satisfaction and its determinants by high/low percentage of service sector and industrial sector, there is support for H1a and H1b. In countries with more dominant service sector economies, intrinsic work characteristics do provide greater overall predictability in overall perceived job satisfaction and have greater standardized beta coefficients than their extrinsic counterparts, with larger coefficients than the intrinsic coefficients in the countries with a lower level of service sector and greater level of industrial sector (GDP composition by sector). Once more, in countries with less dominant service sector economies (relatively larger industrial sector), extrinsic work characteristics have greater standardized beta coefficients than the extrinsic coefficients in the countries with a higher level of service sector and lower level of industrial sector. However, the results clearly show that in each case (regardless of service/industrial sector levels), intrinsic work characteristics add the most overall predictability to perceived job satisfaction of workers within those countries. Thus, workers’ degree of satisfaction with their jobs seem more closely related to how interesting it is and the level of autonomy they have in doing their work, in addition to the quality of workplace relationships, rather than to job security, pay, promotional opportunities, workload, physical effort, and danger.
To get a clearer picture as to the full impact of countries’ economic relative sectoral composition (from a Post/Neo-Fordist perspective) has on differences in perceived job characteristics and worker satisfaction, future research needs to examine a greater number and wider variety of countries, while exploring other theoretically relevant country-level variables that may help to explore country level differences from a Post/Neo-Fordist perspective.
While relatively little previous research has been done to show the link between country sectoral composition and perceived worker satisfaction (see Handel, 2005), particular from a cross-national comparative perspective, findings from this study have demonstrated such a connection; in countries with more dominant service sector economies, intrinsic work characteristics do provide greater overall predictability in overall perceived job satisfaction. Furthermore, in countries with a larger industrial sector in the economy, extrinsic work characteristics play a more important role in determining worker satisfaction.
However, the results clearly show that in each case (regardless of service/industrial sector levels), intrinsic work characteristics add the most overall predictability to perceived job satisfaction of workers within the 32 participating countries. While at first look, this result may seem at odds with Post/Neo-Fordist theory and its corresponding hypotheses, I believe it actually provides greater support for the Post-Fordist perspective, as the service sector was by far the strongest sector in each of the 32 participating countries in 2005. Future research examining a greater number and broader variety of countries (with differing levels of the three components of sectoral composition) would be able to shed additional light on the relevance of the Post/Neo-Fordist perspectives in understanding cross-national differences in work characteristics and perceived worker satisfaction.
Finally, the generally accepted job satisfaction model is not simply generalizable across countries around the world. Rather, what is generally considered a widely generalizable job satisfaction model actual holds up very differently in countries around the world within varying country-level contexts, with overall predictability and job satisfaction determinants’ significance levels varying widely from country to country. This means that researchers should take great caution in comparing results from different job satisfaction studies performed around the world. Rather, a new and expanded model of job satisfaction, one that takes into account country-contextual differences, is vitally needed.
1ISSP Researchers collected the data via self-administered questionnaires, personal interviews, and mail-back questionnaires, depending on the country, and were collected in 1989, 1996-97, and 2004-5 respectively.
2For a full summary and description of this research, see the ICPSR Study Scope and Description Summary at http://webapp.icpsr.umich.edu/cocoon/ICPSR-STUDY/03032.xml.
3Response categories for this variable included, (1) Completely Dissatisfied, (2) Very Dissatisfied, (3) Fairly Dissatisfied, (4) Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied, (5) Fairly Satisfied, (6) Very Satisfied, (7) Completely Satisfied, (8) Can’t Choose, and (9) No Answer.
4Response categories for these variables included, (1) Strongly Disagree, (2) Disagree, (3) Neither Agree Nor Disagree, (4) Agree, (5) Strongly Agree, (8) Can’t Choose, and (9) No Answer.
5Response categories for these variable included (1) Very Bad, (2) Bad, (3) Neither good nor bad, (4) Good, (5) Very Good, (8) Can’t Choose, and (9) No Answer.
6Response categories for these variables included, (1) Strongly Disagree, (2) Disagree, (3) Neither Agree Nor Disagree, (4) Agree, (5) Strongly Agree, (8) Can’t Choose, and (9) No Answer.
7Response categories for these variable included (1) Never, (2) Hardly Ever, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often, (5) Always, (8) Can’t Choose, and (9) No Answer.
8While all of these various analyses were conducted, due to length restrictions only some are provided here; others are available from the author upon request.
9Due to space limitations, complete tables of descriptive statistics and mean job satisfaction scores for all variables for all years are available upon request.
10Due to space limitations, complete correlation matrices for all variables for all years are available upon request.
11Due to space limitations, complete OLS results for all countries in each wave of the survey are available upon request.
12While these are somewhat redundant analyses, as the agricultural sector does differ across countries, they are not merely reciprocals of each other.
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