Are state government workers satisfied with their jobs when the organization is effective?

Author:Caillier, James G.

Research examining the impact of specific extrinsic and intrinsic factors on satisfaction can be traced back to the Human Relations era of organizational theory which began in the late 1920s. After 80 years, however, researchers are still continuing to study factors that affect satisfaction (Brewer, Selden, & Facer, 2000; Bright, 2008; Crewson, 1997; Dehart-Davis, Marlowe, & Pandey, 2006; Naff & Crum, 1999; Perry, 1996; Rainey & Steinbauer, 1999) because there is still a lot that is unclear (Perry and Wise 1990). As a result, questions arise as to whether or not public officials know which factors can increase the satisfaction of their employees.

One possible factor that can enlighten public officials is organizational effectiveness. The belief is that employees want their organization to achieve its goals and mission and, when it does, organizational effectiveness serves as an intrinsic incentive that can improve job satisfaction. Thus employees may respond to additional factors besides financial incentives. While this association is very important, as it can explain job satisfaction differences across government agencies, it is seldom studied.

Therefore, the goal of this article is to determine the connection between organizational effectiveness and job satisfaction. That is, will government workers have higher job satisfaction scores when they perceive the agency is fulfilling its mission and goals? To explore this relationship, other mitigating factors such as public service motivation, role ambiguity, and position in the organization are examined as well. In examining organizational effectiveness and employee satisfaction, this article is organized in the following manner. First, relevant literature is examined and hypotheses are proposed. Second, a model is developed and the measurement of each variable is explained. Third, the model is tested on state government employees and the results are discussed. Last, the conclusion explains the article's implications and caveats, along with possible topics for future research.


Job satisfaction, a response to the experience of specific tasks (Williams & Hazer, 1986), is the most studied facet of organizational behavior (Rainey, 1991). Research on this topic demonstrates that satisfied employees have superior attendance (Eby, Freeman, Rush, & Lance, 1999), locus of control (Elias, 2009), commitment (Boardman & Sundquist, 2009), and are less likely to be involved in misconduct (Andreoli & Lefkowitz, 2009) when compared to dissatisfied workers. Therefore, organizations stand to benefit when workers are satisfied. Despite these findings, however, scholars have been divided regarding the connection between job satisfaction and improved job performance (e.g., Brayfield & Crockett, 1955; Iaffaldano & Muchinsky, 1985; Petty, McGee, & Cavender, 1984); and, few have empirically examined the relationship between job satisfaction and organizational effectiveness (Boardman & Sunquist, 2009; Kim, 2005; Perry & Miller, 1991; Taris & Schreurs, 2009). Therefore, the association between job satisfaction and organizational effectiveness is investigated in this article.

In addition to organizational effectiveness, there are other factors that are expected to affect job satisfaction. As a result, this section explores the relevant individual and organizational factors that are assumed to affect job satisfaction. Furthermore, hypotheses and a job satisfaction model were developed from organizational behavior literature.

Demographic Factors

Age, gender, ethnicity, tenure, and educational attainment are common factors that are included in job satisfaction research. While these factors are sometimes associated with job satisfaction, scholars normally use them only as control variables and, little, if any, attention is devoted to their association with job satisfaction (e.g., Boardman & Sundquist, 2009; Bright, 2008; Naff & Crum, 1999). This article will follow this same path by including these demographic variables in the model and by not hypothesizing their expected relationships and discussing their results.


PAGA is a measure of employee perceptions regarding their organization's effectiveness towards the achievement of its mission and goals. The rationale behind PAGA is that perceived organizational effectiveness positively affects employee job satisfaction because workers inherently want their employing organization to achieve its stated mission and goals. Specifically, employee job satisfaction increases when organizations fulfill their mission and goals because PAGA serves as an intrinsic incentive. Scholars have long argued that organizational related performance measures, such as PAGA, can serve to motivate and increase employee job satisfaction (Barnard, 1938; Clark & Wilson, 1961; Grant, 2007; Hackman & Oldham, 1980; Rainey & Steinbauer, 1999).

In a seminal book, for instance, Chester Barnard (1938) stressed the importance of organizational purpose. In so doing, he suggested that the accomplishment of an organization's purpose could be used to motivate and satisfy workers. Next, Clark and Wilson (1961) developed a theory that categorized organizations according to the kinds of incentives they use to improve employee performance. The first two types of incentives, material and solidary, involve financial rewards and social interactions respectively. Both of these categories are derived from marketplace concepts. The other category, which is especially pertinent here, is taken from the public sector and is called purposive incentives. The scholars state that purposive incentives are derived from achieving some type of super-organizational goal, implying organizational efficacy, altruism, or service that public agencies engage in. Therefore, not only are employees motivated by monetary rewards and social interaction but, in their view, workers are also rewarded when the organization achieves efficacy or some kind of extraordinary goal.

More recently, Rainey and Steinbauer (1999) sought to explain why organizations are effective. In the article, they made a distinction between PSM and mission motivation. While the former is an overall desire to serve the public, the latter is an employee's personal alignment with their agency's mission or service. Therefore their argument is that not only are organizational mission and PSM separate and distinct, but that each serves to motivate employees. Rainey and Steinbauer also postulate that motivated employees "will extend effort and seek to perform well in ways that he or she perceives to be related to accomplishing the mission" (25). In this regard, Grant (2007) and Hackman and Oldham (1980) suggested that workers could be motivated by some type of organizational output as well.

When the relationship between organizational performance and job satisfaction was empirically examined in the private sector, researchers' findings were mixed (see Taris & Schreurs, 2009). Few, however, have examined this association in the public sector. For instance, several scholars have empirically examined perceived organizational effectiveness (Brewer & Selden, 2000; Choi & Rainey, 2010; Daley, 1986; Daley, 2007; Kim, 2010; Skogan, 1976). In so doing, they have not examined the association between job satisfaction and perceived organizational efficacy directly. Daley (1986, 2007), in particular, examines several different models and job satisfaction is the dependent variable in one model while organizational efficacy is a dependent variable in the other one. Therefore, the relationship between the two factors was not investigated.

Boardman and Sundquist (2009), on the other hand, empirically tested the effect of perceived organizational effectiveness on job satisfaction in government agencies. In order to examine this association, the scholars developed a factor that captured government employees' perceptions regarding agency efficacy: perceived public service efficacy (PPSE). While Boardman and Sundquist could not determine causality, the results indicate that PPSE is positively related to job satisfaction. In other words, satisfaction increases as employees' perceptions increase about the benefit the agency is providing to the public. Therefore, it is clear that PPSE is an intrinsic factor.

Another study examined the association between job satisfaction and organizational performance in the Korean public sector (Kim 2005). Unlike Boardman and Sundquist (2009), the scholar sought to determine those factors that affect organizational effectiveness instead of job satisfaction. Thus, organizational effectiveness was modeled as the dependent variable and job satisfaction as one of many explanatory variables. Nevertheless, the results were similar: a positive relationship was found between organizational effectiveness and job satisfaction. Last, Perry and Miller (1991) examined perceived performance among civil servants at the federal level. The findings reveal that employee motivation is affected by agency performance. Furthermore motivation was measured using a multi-item scale that included several questions that were somewhat similar to job satisfaction. As a result, this article expects to find results similar to Boardman and Sundquist (2009), Kim (2005), and Perry and Miller (1991).

Hypothesis 1: Job satisfaction will increase as PAGA increases.

Role Ambiguity

According to classical theory, every person in the organization should have a specific set of responsibilities and tasks. This theory also stipulates that each employee's job duties should be defined in such a manner that they know what is expected of them. A violation of classical theory, role ambiguity, occurs when there is a lack of information regarding responsibilities and duties for a position (Rizzo, House, & Lirtzman, 1970). Although there are many problems that arise from role ambiguity, the main one is that workers will experience greater...

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