Best Practices, Not Individual Preferences, Bring Job Satisfaction

Dr. Dustin Wood

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Though employees may like their work to cater to their individual preferences, they are predictably more satisfied when the organizational culture matches a set of widely preferred characteristics that provide a fair, supportive and stable work environment.

Through a study of more than 700 participants working in occupations ranging from customer service, to accountants, information technology and administration, researchers found people typically prefer a similar organizational culture, according to an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“Although having your organization accommodate personal preferences might increase your job satisfaction, what really makes a difference is if your organization has the things that pretty much everyone wants – such as offering you opportunities for professional growth,” said Dr. Dustin Wood, a research fellow at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business and the lead author on the article.

“Having your organization meet these fairly universal preferences seems to be much more important to your satisfaction than meeting your more distinct, idiosyncratic preferences.”

As the authors show, most people prefer organizations that emphasize quality, have high expectations for performance, show a willingness to experiment, offer opportunities for professional growth, provide employment security, and provide opportunities to collaborate.

Preferences for these kinds of work environments appear to be universal and are a much stronger predictor of job satisfaction than the degree to which organizational culture matched an employee’s more personal preferences, according to the study.

An example would be an employee who loves dogs and owns a dog, Wood said. This employee might be more satisfied at work if pets are allowed on the job, but greater satisfaction is likely to come from the organization better matching the environment desired by the average person, he said.

While the researchers anticipate future studies will reveal more about organizational cultures and how people evaluate culture fit, the current findings bring important implications for employers and for the design of organizational cultures, Wood said. The features of an organization that most affect job satisfaction are largely the same as the features that influence job satisfaction for other people.

“If you want your employees to stay with your organization, the findings suggest it is better to shape your organization toward the widely shared picture of the ideal organization rather than by trying to tailor the organization to better accommodate your employees’ individual, more distinctive preferences,” he said.

Along with Wood, co-authors include Dr. Peter Harms, UA associate professor of management, Graham Lowman, a UA graduate student studying management, and Dr. Brent W. Roberts, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Contact

Adam Jones, UA communications, 205-348-4328, adam.jones@ua.edu

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.