Claudia Garcez, Consultora de RH
and Self-esteem: A Literature Review of the Relationship Between Job
Satisfaction and Self-Esteem
By Claudia Garcez
relationship between job satisfaction and self-esteem has been pondered
for decades by many different professionals. These groups of professionals
include psychologists, sociologists, academic professors, and people
from the business community. In a capitalistic environment, learning
the relationship that exits between job satisfaction and self-esteem
is for the ultimate purpose of improving worker productivity. However,
from a human interest prospective, the importance of the relationship
is to learn whether happiness with one's job is related to one's
self-confidence. Although the research includes many different jobs,
methods and test groups, the research is almost unanimous that, regardless
of job status, there's a strong job satisfaction/self-esteem relationship.
relationship between job satisfaction and self-esteem was part of a
1977 study involving college students. Although the study dealt with
goal setting, performance and attitudes of college students, it gathered
data that gives important information concerning a possible link between
satisfaction on the job and self-esteem. The study involved 61 students
from an "Introduction to Business" course. The students played the
Henshaw and Jackson Executive Game, which required them to make sophisticated
decisions regarding pricing, advertising, inventory, and personnel.
Over a simulated 2-year period, five criteria were measured which included
goals, effort, psychological success, self-esteem and involvement (Hall
and Foster, 1977). The importance of this study, as it relates to satisfaction/self-esteem,
was that when students
of success in a task, they had feelings of increased self-esteem. Also,
an increase in self-esteem was linked to increased involvement, and
lead to increased goal setting. The relevance of self-esteem in the
study can be seen in the following diagram:
interesting finding was that there was no evidence that an increased
self-esteem caused performance. Instead, it was the feeling of psychological
success, as a result of performance that caused an increase in self-esteem
(Hall and Foster, 1977). This can be interpreted to mean that when one
is satisfied on the job (because one is perceiving himself or herself
to be performing well) one will have an increased self-esteem (Hall
and Foster, 1977).
job satisfaction, and job performance were also the focus of a 1980
study. In this study, the differential impact of self-esteem on the
relationships between various job satisfaction scores (e.g. overall,
intrinsic, extrinsic, pay) and job performance were explored (Lopez,
1982). The authors hypothesized that self-esteem moderates the
relationship between job performance and satisfaction (Lopez, 1982).
The study was conducted in six different eastern metropolitan universities.
Although this involved college students, unlike the Hall and Foster
study, these students worked full-time jobs. Here, a total of 1,487
Master of Business Administration students, voluntarily participated
instruments used in this study were the Job Description Index (JDI)
and the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ). The JDI measured
satisfaction with five aspects of the job: work, pay, promotions, supervision,
and co-workers (Lopez, 1982). The MSQ was used to measure overall satisfaction
and intrinsic versus extrinsic satisfaction (Lopez, 1982). Additionally,
self-esteem was measured in three different scales, Chronic, Task-Specific,
and Social self-esteem (Lopez, 1982).
study found that there was no significant correlations between the three
self-esteem measures and performance on the various satisfaction scales.
This suggests that Chronic, Task Specific, and Social components of
self-esteem are unrelated to both performance and satisfaction. Although
Chronic self-esteem was significantly linked with both Task-Specific
and Social components of self-esteem, Task-Specific and Social self-esteem
were not significantly correlated.
findings provide support for the idea that self-esteem moderates the
job performance-job satisfaction relationship. The data revealed that,
in females, Social self-esteem was the strongest factor in the six dimensions
of satisfaction. Conversely, in males, Task-Specific self-esteem was
the greatest moderating power. The study's researchers believe that
follow-up studies are needed to explore the generalization of this data
on a broader range of individuals and organizations.
such follow-up study occurred in a recent 2002 study by Andrea Kohan
and Brian P. O'Connor. In this study, Kohan and O'Connor (2002)
investigated job satisfaction of police officers in relation to mood,
well-being and alcohol consumption. Also, Kohan and O'Connor (2002),
examined job satisfaction, job stress, and thoughts of quitting in relation
to positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). A high PA means a
zest for life, excitement, and pleasurable engagement. Contrastly, a
high NA is associated with feeling upset, nervous, and tense. Alcohol
consumption was used as a variable because it has been a serious issue
in many police officers lives (Kohan and O'Connor, 2002).
study involved giving a cover letter, questionnaire and a return envelope
in the mailbox of 395 police officers. The cover letter assured officers
that their involvement was confidential and voluntary. 122 officers
participated by fully completing the questionnaires. Their mean age
was approximately 36 and they had been on the job an average of almost
average, the study revealed that police officers reported more PA than
NA. In other words, they had high levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction,
job satisfaction, and job stress. Also, there was a relatively low amount
of officers intending to leave their job. As far as alcohol consumption,
the level was surprisingly moderate, with the average consumption only
being 2.3 ounces of alcohol "a few times a month." Job satisfaction,
life satisfaction, self-esteem, and intention to leave were more strongly
linked to PA. Conversely, job stress and alcohol consumption was linked
to NA. The import of this study is that police officers with a zest
for life and excited about their job had higher self-esteem and thus,
higher job satisfaction than officers who were nervous and tense (Kohan
and O'Connor, 2002). It is believed that police officers are
excellent samples for studying job experiences and well-being because
police work is a way of life and not just a job.
haven't just focused on one distinct occupational group. Probably
one of the most comprehensive studies of numerous occupations was a
1980 study conducted by Edward J. Walsh and Marylee C. Taylor, focusing
on aspects of job experiences and self-esteem. In this study, Walsh
and Taylor (1980) examined the association of work-related factors and
various indicators of self-esteem for seven work groups. These groups
included garbage-collectors, park workers, bartenders, barbers, mail
carriers, high-school teachers and university professors. In addition,
this study focused on the relationship of occupational status, conditions
of work, and intra-occupational achievement to dimensional as well as
global measures of self-evaluation (Walsh and Taylor, 1980).
the exception of the teachers, each of the samples was randomly selected
from local incumbents of the various occupations. As for the teachers,
the entire teaching faculty of three Philadelphia high-schools participated
in the study. To measure the self-esteem of the participants, Walsh
and Taylor (1980) used the "global" evaluation, but their real purpose
in this study was to emphasize the multidimensionality of that variable.
A battery of items designed to use the participants' attitudes toward
themselves in specific areas, followed by a single item, intended to
measure the person's overall self evaluation. Also, Walsh and
Taylor (1980) added 200+ pre-existing self-esteem scales to the dimension
of "familial" and "sociability"(adding a total of three dimensions
of self-esteem) self-esteem. The instruments used in this study forced
the manual workers to rate themselves on items such as job pride and
getting ahead. For each type of job measure, participants were asked
to evaluate themselves on a five-point scale ranging from "not too
well" to "extremely well." The following passage describes
a request of the researchers of a general evaluation from the participants:
have told your feelings about yourself in a number of special areas,
but now we'd like a general evaluation. Some people feel pretty good
about themselves, overall, and others feel pretty bad. Think about yourself
in general-including everything you
are and everything you do-and say which of the following overall evaluations
best describes your feelings about yourself" (Walsh and Taylor, 1980).
the findings of this study are too numerous to state in this review,
the research did provide some valuable information on aspects of occupational
factors and self-esteem. Pertaining to job prestige, it had a positive
affect on occupational self-esteem. However, interestingly, job prestige
only accounted for about four percent of the variance in "global"
self-esteem. Walsh and Taylor are of the opinion that this should diminish
the generalization that low status jobs produce serious negative social
psychological consequences (Walsh and Taylor, 1980).
addition, the research provided data to generate two hypotheses related
to the issues in my review. The first is that incumbents of lower status
jobs involving idiocultural norm control in stable small group settings
(e.g. bartenders) will experience relatively high self-esteem. The second
is that job recognition and rewards mean more to job self-esteem than
job prestige or work conditions. The authors conclude that the data
challenges the belief that blue-collar workers experience "an overwhelmingly
sense of inferiority." Also, that the relationship between work experience
and self-esteem is more complex than they thought (Walsh and Taylor,
second more recent 1999 study, involving more than one occupational
group, investigated the relationship between differential inequity,
job satisfaction, intention to turn over, and self-esteem. Pertaining
to self-esteem, Rebecca Abraham (1999) hypothesized that self-esteem
moderates the under equity-job satisfaction and under equity-intention
to turn over relationships; more simply, individuals with low self-esteem
experience greater job dissatisfaction and propensity to turn-over than
those with high self-esteem (Abraham, 1999).
The study's sample was made up of 108 employees from the telecommunications,
entertainment, food service, and clothing retail industries located
in the Southeastern, United States. 41 (38%) of the participants were
men, and 60 (55.6%) were women. Seven participants did not report their
gender. The participants' ages ranged from 19 to 50 years old with
a median of 30 years. Also, 78 of the participants were first-line managers
and 24 were clerical workers (6 participants did not report their job
titles). The average of their organizational tenure was 3 years (Abraham,
and Oldham's five-item, 7-point Job Satisfaction Scale was used to
measure job satisfaction. Intention to turn-over was measured by a three-item,
7-point Intention to Turn-over subscale of The Michigan Organizational
Assessment Questionnaire. Finally, self-esteem was measured by Quinn
and Shepard's four-item, 7-point, bipolar Self-Perceptions at Work
Scale (Abraham, 1999).
of the relevant findings was that age and system inequity were predictors
of job dissatisfaction and company inequity for intention to turn-over.
Also, strong support was provided for the moderation by self-esteem of the relationship
between inequity and the criteria. Abraham (1999) believes that the
finding that focal persons with low self-esteem experience more aversive
effects attributable to inequity in working conditions has both practical
and theoretical implications. According to Abraham (1999), from a practical
viewpoint, firms should target individuals with low self-esteem for
the dissemination of information regarding company policy on status
symbols at the inception of employment. Also, companies should provide
ongoing support to assist low self-esteem employees in copying with
inequity. Finally, Abraham (1999) believes theoretically, low self-esteem
may be innate, so that individuals with inherently low self-esteem react
more strongly to inequity (Abraham, 1999).
distinct group of individuals who have been the focus of a study concerning
the relationship between job satisfaction and self-esteem was a group
of individuals with mental illnesses. In this study, Edward S. Casper
and Steven Fishbein (2002) investigated job satisfaction and job success
as moderators of the self-esteem in people with mental illnesses. It
was hypothesized that status satisfaction and success variables would
have a significant and meaningful relationship with self-esteem, while
the employment status and status duration variables alone would not
(Casper and Fishbein, 2002).
instruments used were the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (as the dependent
variable measure), the Need for Change Scale ( as the job satisfaction
measure), and the Need for Change Scale-Others ( as job success measure).
The participants in the research were individuals with mental illnesses
attending mental health agencies in New Jersey. During a of two month
period (November, 2000 to January, 2001), the participants completed
the protocol, regarding their gender, current age, ethnic background,
current employment status (employed vs. unemployed)(Casper and Fishbein,
was found that measures of "felt satisfaction" and "felt success"
with employment status were significant and moderate level predictors
of self-esteem for both employed and unemployed (Casper and Fishbein,
2002). Satisfaction and success were measured as moderators of self-esteem
so that the participants' level of self-esteem were not directly related
to functional status but to the participant's satisfaction and success
with the functional status (Casper and Fishbein, 2002). The findings
also showed that the differences in functional status alone did not
appear related to self-esteem, but differences in satisfaction and success
with the functional status were related (Casper and Fishbein, 2002).
relationship between job satisfaction and self-esteem has even been
studied outside the United States. In a recent 2003 study, Hamid Reza
Alavi and Mohammad Reza Askaripur (2003) used a random sample
of 310 personnel in the Kerman Province, Iran. Two types of questionnaires
were used, the Kruskal-Wallis test and the Median test. Alavi's and
Askaripur's hypothesis was that there is a relationship between self-esteem
and job satisfaction of personnel (Alavi and Askaripur, 2003).
test their hypothesis, Alavi and Askaripur (2003) used statistical population
of personnel from 18 organizations, mostly from government offices.
The location was Kerman, Iran with a total population number of 620
people. Half of the population were random selected of that 310. Only
274 people completed the two different research questionnaires. The
variables mentioned on one questionnaire were: sex, marriage, age, record
of service, the amount of salary, and the number of family members (Alavi
and Askaripur, 2003). A second questionnaire, called job satisfaction
questionnaire, was used to measure self-esteem. The different dimensions
in this questionnaire were: the kind of job, manager or supervisor,
co-worker, promotion in the organization, and salary and wage benefits.
The job satisfaction questionnaire was made up of 40 questions (Alavi
and Askaripur, 2003).
result of the data analysis showed that there is a significant meaningful
relationship between self-esteem and job satisfaction of personnel.
Also, it was found that personnel with high self-esteem have more satisfaction
in their jobs than personnel with low self-esteem. Therefore, the results
accepted and confirmed the project's hypothesis (Alavi and Askaripur,
on the results of this research, Alavi and Askaripur (2003) suggest
that managers and employers should employ people with high self-esteem
so that their job satisfaction might be increased after employment.
On the contrary, Alavi and Askaripur (2003) state that a decrease in
job satisfaction may be due to a decrease in self-esteem, and thus,
organizations should increase their employees' self-esteem, which,
in turn, will increase their job satisfaction (Alavi and Askaripur,
2003). According to this study, one of the best methods for increasing
self-esteem in personnel is to increase their job satisfaction in all
of its dimensions (Alavi and Askaripur, 2003).
order to know how to increase job satisfaction, it is important to learn
what factors make people fully satisfied in their jobs. In a 2003 survey
on job satisfaction, college graduates with degrees in Financial Planning
from a large Midwest university, ranked factors that they considered
essential to be fully satisfied at work. These factors included realization
of expectation, company support, attitude, relationships with others,
and pay. The results of this survey are relevant because it shows
a relationship between job satisfaction and personal happiness (DeVaney
and Chen, 2003).
University Development Office provided DeVaney and Chen (2003) information
for all graduates since 1980s. It included a list of 624 graduate names
and addresses. The Dillman method for mailed survey was used in this
study. Unfortunately, only 25 questionnaires were fully completed and
returned. Luckily, out of the remaining 599 questionnaires, 211 (35%)
usable responses were received (DeVaney and Chen, 2003).
relevant part of this study shows that realization of expectation, company
support, attitude, relations with fellow workers and pay were determinants
of job satisfaction (DeVaney and Chen, 2003). Also, the results suggest
that if graduates obtain positions that are consistent with their expectations,
they will more likely to be satisfied. Finally, the results imply that
once an individual's job needs are satisfied, the person will consequently
experience a sense of inner reward and happiness (DeVaney and Chen,
relationship between job satisfaction and self-esteem was also analyzed
in a school- work transition project. This project, called My Turn,
was a cooperative effort of public schools, institutions of higher education,
corporations, and small businesses seeking to improve educational opportunities
for disadvantaged young people ("My Turn," 1996). "My Turn"
provided internship experiences that included formal counseling or mentoring
to designate training and educational needs for career paths associated
with job experience (" My Turn," 1996).
project involved eighty high-school students which were placed in six-to
eight-week internships that matched their desired career interests.
There was special attention given to maintain meaningful connections
between internships and the students' potential career goals. The
students had the opportunity to learn about the overall workings of
a business ("My Turn," 1996). They spent four to six hours each
week training in a different area of the business, including sales,
human resources, shipping and receiving, telemarketing, billing, and
payroll. The students also had one or two sessions with the chief executive
officer or a senior vice-president as a way of acquainting them with
organizational philosophies and missions ("My Turn," 1996). In addition,
the students were required to keep a journal of their work experience.
Journal keeping was important because it enabled students to map out
their own thoughts and understanding concerning their experience. Also,
it provided feedback, which allowed the staff to identify areas of failed
expectations or inappropriate experience ("My Turn," 1996).
results of the My Turn project showed an increase in the students'
self-esteem. Also, the students reported having learned a great deal,
considering they had very little practical business knowledge prior
to the internship. Finally, the high-school teachers observed a significant
increase in the students' confidence and interest in school
("My Turn," 1996).
appears that individuals that are satisfied with their jobs have a higher
self-esteem than individuals who aren't satisfied. Interestingly,
there is support for the notion that people that have made a career
choice, even before they have started working, have a higher self-esteem
than people who are undecided about their career. This notion was the
hypothesis of Harvey Resnick, Marianne Lesson Fauble, and Samuel H.
Osipow in a 1970 study, in which they hypothesized that college students
who have a high self-esteem show more advanced vocational crystallization
than college students low in self-esteem. "Crystallization refers
to the formulation of tentative ideas regarding the level and field
of future work, along with a tentative commitment, and should be complete
by age 18, thus making way for specification where the general choice
becomes specific" (Resnick, Fauble & Osipow, 1970).
subjects of the study were 114 male and 102 female college students
enrolled in "Introductory Psychology" at Ohio State University (1970).
The instruments used were the Biographical Inventory Questionnaire,
The Kuder Preference Record, and The Tennessee Self-Concept Scale. The
first instrument, The Biographical Inventory Questionnaire, was an important
device for this study to ascertain a number of attributes. Some of the
attributes included age, parental income, college major and minor, grade
point average, extracurricular activities, expected career patterns,
and for women, purpose for attending college and their mother's working
pattern. This questionnaire also included information about certainty
of career choice. The second instrument, The Kuder Preference Record,
was used to assess differences in degree of preference for various career
choices. The final instrument, The Tennessee Self-Concept Scale, was
designed to provide a convenient and objective measure of self-esteem.
This questionnaire presented a number of scores, of which self-esteem,
or P score, was of most interest to this study. According to Resnick,
Fauble, and Osipow (1970), the P score was a reflection of how individuals
three questionnaires were administered to the students in small groups,
ranging from 10 to 20 students. Students had a total of two hours to
complete the three questionnaires in standardized conditions.
They were informed that the data was being collected for research purposes
and that they could fill the questionnaires anonymously (1970). The
results of this study showed that high self-esteem males expressed greater
certainty about their career choices than did the low self-esteem males.
Similarly, high self-esteem females showed greater certainty about their
career plans than low self-esteem females. Also, it revealed that the
relationship between self-esteem and vocational crystallization was
the same for both sexes (Resnick, Fauble and Osipow, 1970).
same type of research was the focus of a study of even younger individuals,
high-school students. In this more recent study, Lian-Hwang Chiu investigated
the relationship of career goals and self-esteem among adolescents (1990).
The purpose of the research was to test the hypothesis that adolescents
with some career goal tend to have higher self-esteem than those without
an idea of what they want to do after graduation from high-school (Chiu,
1990). The study was conducted in a small Midwestern city with
a total of 221 students in tenth and eleventh grade English classes
of the instruments used was the Rosenberg Self-Esteem (RSE) Scale. The
RSE is a global measure of self-esteem composed of 10 statements, such
as, "On the whole I am satisfied with myself." (Chiu, 1990).
Another instrument used was the Self-Esteem Rating Scale for Children
(SERSC). The SERSC consisted of 12 items, such as, "Hesitates to
speak up in class" (Chiu, 1990).
teachers administered the RSE and rated the students' self-esteem
(SERSC). The students were divided into two groups. One group was named
"career decisive group" and the other group was "career indecisive
group." The group who knew what they wanted to do, the career decisive
group, was predicted to have higher self-esteem on the RSE than the
career indecisive group. Also, The career decisive group was predicted
to score higher
in self-esteem on the SERSC than the career indecisive group (Chiu,
prediction that adolescents who knew what they would do after school
would score higher on the RSE than the career indecisive group was supported
by the data. Nevertheless, the difference in self-esteem was only substantial
for males. Also, the data confirmed the same result on the SERSC (Chiu,
1990). Based on the results of this study, Chiu believes that there
is a normal period of indecision in the process of making career choices
but significant indecision may be a reflection of other psychological
problems, including low self-esteem (Chiu, 1990).
appears to be no doubt that there is a strong relationship between job
satisfaction and self-esteem. As we have seen, many different professionals,
using many different study groups, have researched this relationship
for decades. The studies range from research on high status jobs, such
as university professors, to low status jobs, such as garbage-collectors.
Also, studies have been performed on people with mental illnesses, college
students who work, and even high school students making career choices.
Many different testing methods have been used, as well as many different
dimensions of self-esteem and numerous occupational aspects of satisfaction.
research consistently provides support for the notion that a person
who is satisfied with their job has a higher self-esteem than one who
is not. Likewise, a person who has a high self-esteem is likely to be
more satisfied with their job. True, regardless of this seemed to be
job status that was evaluated. The job satisfaction/self-esteem relationship
is somewhat like the "chicken or the egg" analogy. The research
isn't exact on which one comes first. Either way, there's no questioning
the bond between the two, whether for productivity or human interest
reasons, will continue to be the focus of research studies for decades
Abraham, Rebecca. (1999). The
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of personnel in government organizations. Public Personnel
Archived Information (1996).
A guide to promising practice in educational partnerships:
Turn. Jan. 31,2004.
(link dead, sorry)
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S. (2002). Job satisfaction and job success as moderators of the
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Chill, L. H. (1990). The relationship
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DeVaney, S. A. & Chen Z.
(2003). Job satisfaction of recent graduates in financial
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and attitudes. Academy of Management Journal, 20 (2), 282-290.
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and alcohol consumption. The Journal of Psychology, 136 (3),
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