Herzberg, Big Five Personality Traits, And Happiness Impact on Productivity

Originally Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Administration Concentration in Information Resource Management on April 28, 2015

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The following is an excerpt from the scientific literature review section of my graduate project.

 

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

When it comes to employee satisfaction, it can be a rather difficult area to understand and in many ways, knowledge about it seems to be lacking or misunderstood. Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory is an explanation of the factors that satisfy or dissatisfy employees. It provides an interesting look at the factors that might make an employee satisfied or dissatisfied with their job. The theory also shows the overall complexity of keeping employees satisfied.

“The opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction but, rather, no job satisfaction; and similarly, the opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction, but no job dissatisfaction”

-Frederick Herzberg, 1987

The theory takes into consideration the quality of supervision, employee job security, pay, and quality working conditions whereby the absence or poor quality of which may cause job dissatisfaction but its presence will not necessarily aid in job satisfaction (Kurian, 2013, p.136). The idea is to learn what factors satisfy employees or what factors dissatisfy employees. The theory breaks these job satisfaction factors into two categories: the motivating factors and the hygiene factors.

Those items that fall into the satisfier category, or motivating factors, are as follows: achievement, recognition, the work one is doing and their perception of it, responsibility, advancement, and growth (Smerek & Peterson, 2006). The category focusing on dissatisfaction, called hygiene factors, contains 10 items: company policy and administration, supervision, relationship with supervisor, working conditions, salary, peer relationships, personal life, subordinate relationships, status, and security (Smerek & Peterson, 2006).

According to the Two-Factor Theory you cannot improve job satisfaction by improving any of the 10 hygiene factors, but only by improving the 6 motivating factors; In other words, an improved relationship with your supervisor will not make you like your job any more than you already do, it will just help you not hate it. The absence of the motivating factors will not actually make you dissatisfied with your job, but you will not be satisfied with it either (Smerek & Peterson, 2006).

Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory adds a layer of complexity in working towards motivating employees to be more satisfied with their jobs and role within a company. It provides a rough framework of ideas that may cause job satisfaction or job dissatisfaction. Understanding this theory may assist in the goal of improving employee job satisfaction, but much of the difficulty with this theory is the variations in employee personality and perceptions that do not seem to be given a large enough priority in importance and potential to cause problems within group dynamics.

Big Five Personality Traits

The Big Five is a classification system of personality traits that many psychologists propose as being the principle traits of individual differences in personality (Carleton University, 2013). These traits may determine how an individual perceives the world and how they interact with it. While these may not be the only traits involved in distinguishing individuals’ personalities, it is clear that they have an important role that may be relevant to the issue of job satisfaction.

The Big Five traits are:

  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism (or Emotional Stability)
  • Openness to Experience

Personality traits form the basic foundation of a person’s behavior and actions (Carleton University). It can impact how the person perceives the world and how they react to it. This is important to understand in relation to job satisfaction because it can determine how likely someone is to find satisfaction from areas of their lives and may help to determine how best to help employees find satisfaction in their work. The below-cited research is just a small sampling of the wealth of information establishing the Big Five traits as predictors of human behavior and personality types.

A study conducted in 2011 was able to predict personality types using the Big Five personality traits (Germeijs & Vershueren, 2011). Figure 111 shows the degree of which each personality trait is recorded and the corresponding personality trait. The study focused on determining indecisiveness as a personality type using the Big Five. This prediction of personality types may lead to being able to identify how people with certain personality types could perceive situations and make helping them gain more meaningful and satisfying work easier.

A 2004 study showed that a relationship exists between higher scores in neuroticism and lower scores in conscientiousness can determine the likelihood of an individual being open to career exploration (Reed et al., 2004). Further sources of studies cited in this study showed a link between career exploration and the openness trait. This study resulted in being able to predict the likelihood of a person being open to a wider range of career options and established links between this outcome and personality traits.

Another study conducted by staff at the University of Teknologi in Malaysia sought to determine whether the Big Five personality traits could be used to predict the likelihood of job satisfaction. A small, but significant, relationship was found between an increase in the extroversion trait and an increase in job satisfaction, as well as a relationship between an increase in the openness to experiences trait and an increase in job satisfaction (Husin & Zaidi, 2011). This research seems to show that the more open and extroverted you are, the more likely you are to be satisfied with your job. This may have a lot to do with aspects that make up an extroverted personality and seeking gratification from outside of oneself.

With these studies, as well as thousands more, a link between a person’s personality and the likelihood of finding satisfaction in a job can be seen. What these studies do not say is that there is no hope for someone with some personality traits to never find satisfaction in their job; it merely shows that an extroverted and open person is more likely to find job satisfaction. The other employees may be harder to satisfy, but nothing seems to indicate that most of them cannot be satisfied in their job.

Other Factors Impacting Productivity

Various studies have attempted to answer several questions related to areas that may impact productivity. Three such areas of interest here would be the subjects of emotions impacting productivity, the importance of social interaction and perception, and highly regarded supervisors and their impact on productivity. Supervision and social interaction are included in Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory as being important factors in the development of job satisfaction. An employee’s emotional well-being may impact their perceptions and thus have an outcome on their job satisfaction.

Emotional Impact

Studies on the effects of emotions effects on productivity are not conclusive, but there have been studies done that seem to show some evidence to support the idea that positive emotions can improve productivity and negative emotions can decrease productivity. These studies do not necessarily account for an increase in job satisfaction, but in many ways an increase in happiness can be very similar to an increase in satisfaction.

“It seems, therefore, that positive emotion invigorates people. Yet the mechanism here, so far, is unclear. Does happiness have its effect through greater numbers answered or through greater accuracy of the average answer? This distinction is of interest and might be thought of as one between industry and talent –between the consequences of happiness for pure effort compared to effective skill.”

-Oswald, Proto, & Sgroi, p.14, 2008

Several experiments conducted by Oswald, Proto, and Sgroi (2008) at Warwick University in the United Kingdom found that when individual employees are made “happier” they have an increased productivity of around 12%.  This is not an insubstantial amount. In general terms (as opposed to the practical applications of actually reducing a workforce), approximately 9 people will now be able to do the work of 10; approximately 88 will be able to do the work of 100. The benefits could be in the form of a staff reduction or reduced time to complete tasks. This could prove to be quite a cost saver for employers and may offset costs associated with working to improve employee morale.

One of the studies done by Oswald, Proto, and Sgroi (2008) was conducted using well-established tasks that ask subjects to do a math test with varying levels of happiness. They worked to alter the moods of test subjects through the use of movie clips containing comedy. They were promised a base payment for showing up and another payment based on their performance on the test determined by correct answers. Through self-reporting, it was found that participants were made happier by the film and that those who reported being happier (compared to a control group that was not shown the film) had an improved performance on the test.  This indicates that one’s emotional state can have an impact on their productivity rate.

fig1Afig1B

Data Figure 1: Happiness vs. number of correct answers on a test; Oswald, Proto, & Sgroi, 2008

Supervisor Impact

A study by Wright and Straw (1999) finds results that do not appear to support the idea that worker productivity increases with supervisors rated higher by those workers; the results were rather inconclusive. This is interesting because if productivity increases due to job satisfaction it would support Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory showing that an improved relationship with a supervisor does not make one satisfied with their job it just helps ensure they will not be dissatisfied with it. A good relationship with your supervisor is essential to job satisfaction but it will not make you satisfied with your job.

Perception and Social Circles

Social interactions can have a positive impact on job satisfaction when considering Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory. While this may be true to an extent, personal beliefs were indicated as having an impact larger than social interaction in a study conducted on the experiences of nurses (Ravari et al, 2012). This again highlights the potential difficulty of improving worker job satisfaction and the importance of perception and personality. The cited study did not rule out, and in fact indicated, that social interaction can have some impact on job satisfaction; the effect of this may be more rooted in the importance individuals place on social interaction.

A different study on social circles in the workplace sought to measure how sociability impacts performance (Verbeke & Wuyts, 2006).  What was found was that social circles can increase the performance of employees, although the relationship does not appear to be direct. It was indicated in the study that the social circles can work as an additional method of receiving information that may help in a person’s job and thus improve performance. What may be most alarming to employers is that members of a social circle often display alignment with the goals of the social circle, rather than the goals of the company they are working for. The increase in performance indicated and the group cohesion of the social circle may be partially responsible for an increase in job satisfaction.

In a study by Lin and Kwantes (2014), the researchers sought to determine the perceptions of people in regards to the social interactions of other people in the workplace. The results found that employees expected more sociable employees to receive better performance reviews, be more likely to receive coworker assistance, and they were perceived to have higher job competence. Employees expect a level of social interaction and tend to look more favorably on those that engage in high levels of social interactions. There is, however, no known link between higher social interaction and the actual level of job competence. It may be a matter of what people think someone knows, as opposed to what they actually know.

Job satisfaction and productivity complement each other. An employee that is more satisfied with their job is likely to be more productive. As indicated by these studies, job satisfaction and productivity will not be improved by a better relationship with a supervisor but could possibly be improved by coworker relationships to a certain extent, but there is the potential for the goals of a social group to not line up with the goals of the organization. Perception and personal beliefs may have a stronger influence than sociability on job satisfaction. The emotional state of the employee may also play a role in how satisfied employees are. Considering all of this information, low rates of job satisfaction should almost be expected.

End of Excerpt

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Categories: Human-Centered Management, Leadership

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