Gauging your employee's job satisfaction is like measuring tidewaters – both can change with the time of day.
"Job satisfaction is one of the more mis-understood concepts in the science and practice of work behavior," says Howard Weiss, Purdue University expert on organizational psychology. He says research shows that whether workers rate their job satisfaction as high or low has little effect on job performance, absenteeism or turnover. Weiss, who studies job satisfaction, says daily events drive the emotional states of your employees and thus affect their day-to-day behavior and job satisfaction.
Further, an unhappy employee can be productive and may even decide not to quit the job. But his or her attitude may negatively impact fellow workers, customers or clients.
"Too often, employers assume that employees' feelings are constant," notes Weiss. "Actually, workplaces are more like emotional cauldrons, with daily circumstances influencing employee feelings and job performance." That's why typical measures of job satisfaction – surveys and polls – are not very useful.
Daily turmoil may be the most important factor affecting job satisfaction. Weiss suggests supervisors need to be "events managers," controlling to whatever extent possible the negative events that affect employees. Remember, negative events affect people more intensely than do positive events. Also, there's a ripple effect. For example, a boss yelling at a worker may start a chain reaction as that employee interacts with others throughout the day.
The effect of negative events also may be greater depending on the time of day, according to Weiss' latest findings. In a study of 24 managers, Weiss found that their on-the-job mood fluctuated in daily cycles, with the overall pattern being a low point at the beginning of each day. Their moods tended to improve throughout the day, then peaked in mid-afternoon and stayed there.
The point then is to keep this fluctuation in mind and time employee critiques, reviews, instructions and meetings to your best advantage.