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Factors Affecting Work Satisfaction

Labor and employment may be harmonized with contentment and satisfaction. In fact, for many individuals it is the very nature of their work that gives them a sense of satisfaction in life. However, this is not true for all laborers. Of particular interest, are employees involved in manual labor and those receiving relatively low compensations for their work output. Analyzed in this paper are the job perceptions of two workers involved in such professions, specifically a steel worker and a stone mason.

To be discussed are self-reports regarding their view on their own responsibilities and what these views reflect regarding their work satisfaction. The testimonies served to show that the stone mason drew great satisfaction from his work while the steel worker displayed dissatisfaction and scorn for his. Several elements contributing to work satisfaction are identifiable, first of all is the level of pride one has for the labor. These two factors may be correlated as it has been observed that as one takes greater pride for one’s work, there is a greater level of satisfaction reported.

It is important therefore that one is able to assess the value of his or her individual contribution as a result of his or her responsibilities. When learning then about work satisfaction, pride in one’s work is not uncommonly joined to the concept. Thus, workers need to have the ability to draw pride from their outputs in order to report a level of satisfaction in their occupation. Couple with the concept of pride is a need for recognition. In the words of Bates’s case study: So I take a lot of pride in it and I do get, oh, I’d say a lot of praise or whatever you want to call it.

I don’t suppose anybody, however much he’s recognized, wouldn’t like to be recognized a little more. I think I’m pretty well recognized. (Bates 18) Recognition thus serves to increase work satisfaction. There appears a need for social affirmation of the value of the contribution workers give to their companies and to society in general. This recognition is aimed at the quality of the products that the worker turns out and even at the appreciation of the very nature of their occupation.

Such recognition emerges from two sources: from the superiors at work and from members of the community benefiting from the labor. The presence of recognition serves to positively reinforce workers to further reflect excellence in their work. The absence of the same is said to be degrading to the worker’s very person (Terkel 392). Recognition from superiors may be measured in several ways, it may be through actual verbal praise or through other translations such as promotions and the like.

Likewise, reprimand if not properly contextualized or phrased and particularly demotion if given would served to discourage workers and reflect lower levels of job satisfaction. A pay cut would communicate discontent from superiors, particularly if one has been employed in the position for a long time (Terkel 393). On the opposite end, a promotion would serve to incentivize workers especially so when the promotion is unexpected or is given earlier than the practiced norm (Bates 19).

Recognition from the community may be understood to mean the appreciation taken from those directly encountered as benefactors of individual labor. However, it may also be taken to mean the level of respect that is given laborers as a result of the profession they practice. Terkel notes a common perception among educated persons regarding the characteristics of manual laborers in the words of one college student “You read? All these dummies read the sports pages around here. What are you doing with a book? ” (398).

The stereotypes and looking-down effect serves to demean the work performed by manual laborers. Instead of taking pride in their individual levels of production or in their capacity to meet the responsibilities given them, workers compare their very occupation with those of others, particularly those who had attained diplomas. Bates aptly encapsulated the problem, “I think the laborer feels that he’s the low man. Not so much that he works with his hands, it’s that he’s at the bottom of the scale” (Bates 18).

In order then for workers to draw satisfaction from their jobs, communities need to assert the value of these professions to society as a whole. Security of tenure also materializes as a significant predictor of job satisfaction. Workers who constantly feel threatened regarding the security of their positions are more antagonized about their tasks whereas workers who report confidence in the necessity of their stay in position are able to take greater pride at work. Automation emerges as a primary concern for workers involved in manual labor.

The threat that jobs occupied would eventually be eliminated as a result of replacement with machines looms over workers’ security. When workers view their jobs as easily performed by machines, leaving no room for their own contribution, there results instability in perception of satisfaction. However when individuals see machines as mere aids to their work but not complete replacements, satisfaction is not affected. In some instances satisfaction is even heightened with the assurance that machines could not answer for all the responsibilities of the human laborer.

This results in pride in the specificity of the work one performs (Bates 19). Another observed factor is variation in the tasks assigned to workers. Take for example the steel worker whose job was simply to put on and take off steel, this became monotonous as the day went on, and in fact as the weeks drew out (Terkel 395). The monotony of the work caused a lower perception of the quality of his job. Furthermore, frustration is evident whent the worker is lumped in with other workers performing homogenous tasks producing identical products.

The individual contribution of the worker is then drowned out and his impact on the products is not translated. This detracts from the worker’s feeling of significance and thus leads to lower levels of satisfaction whereas, a worker assigned to various projects or faced with changing problems requiring novel solutions gains more satisfaction from his work as he is able to confidently point at individual projects and continuously expand his skill as required. Posterity is also a predictor of job satisfaction.

Workers who are able to display the results of their efforts report greater satisfaction with their work then workers who are not able to identify the finished product of their efforts. Laborers who see the actual benefit derived from their work draw satisfaction from the satisfaction of their clients. However, laborers involved in a process of production who do not witness or know of the final outcome of their efforts grow easily dissatisfied. Posterity for the family man is also observed in the future of his children.

A laborer who sees that his children will have secure futures and productive lives will be more satisfied than one who is uncertain of the future of his children. However, it is not true that all manual laborers aspire to have their children break away from their field of occupation. Those workers who have achieved satisfaction from their work reflect that children who would follow in their footsteps would indeed be appreciated. Whether or not the laborers own children practice the same profession however, it has been shown that the continuity of their profession is a factor in work satisfaction.

Awareness of the decline of the practice of one’s profession leads to rates of dissatisfaction, as has been displayed in the case studies of the manual laborers. However, with an assurance of the posterity of a given profession, pride can be taken by workers on the dignity of their work. Touched in the articles but not given focus was the amount of compensation that workers derived from their employers. Certainly, with levels of compensation so low that they are not correspondent to the amount of work put in by individual laborers, job satisfaction would be reflected to be low.

Furthermore, it was shown that even a hostile working environment served to relieve some of the tension workers get from work. However, a more amiable working environment, especially an employer who takes interest in providing means of relieving stress would increase job satisfaction on the whole. Satisfaction then can be derived from the working environment, particularly with high levels of work pride, recognition, variety in tasks and assured posterity.

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