Cutting-Edge Leadership

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If Your Job Sucks, It May Be Your Genes

What causes you to be happy or unhappy with your job?

Does your job suck? Or, are you always really satisfied with your job(s)? The answer may have nothing at all to do with the job. It may be you and your genetic makeup.

We typically think that different types of jobs, and the conditions under which we work, are fully responsible for whether we are satisfied or dissatisfied with our jobs, and these factors do indeed matter. However, temperament and personality traits play an important role.

The most definitive research comes from research with identical and fraternal twins, some of whom are reared together and other reared apart (to allow for “control” of environmental conditions). These studies allow for examining the relative contributions of genes and environment. The results suggest that there are genetic factors that influence job satisfaction independent of the job or environmental influences.

This makes sense, because we all know people who are constant complainers, never satisfied regardless of the job or the conditions, and we know other people who find satisfaction in even the most menial types of jobs. Research shows that personality traits do indeed predict job satisfaction.

For example, research suggests that persons high on negative affect tend to be more dissatisfied with their jobs, as do persons who are high on a sense of powerlessness and personal alienation. Sometimes, personality may interact with work conditions. For example, persons low on self-esteem are more satisfied with their jobs when there are clear performance expectations.

Of course just because personality and genetics play a role in job satisfaction/dissatisfaction, employers do have an obligation to try to improve employee job satisfaction across the board. Work conditions and treatment of employees do influence job satisfaction, and low levels of job satisfaction are related to costly absenteeism and turnover.

 Here's one on the genetics of leadership.

 

References

Arvey, R.D., Bouchard, T.J., Segal, N.L., & Abraham, I.M. (1989). Job satisfaction: Environmental and genetic components. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 187-192.

Efraty, D., & Sirgy, M.J. (1990). The effects of quality of working life (QWL) on employee behavioral responses. Social Indicators Research, 22, 31-47.

Pierce, J.L., Gardner, D.G., Dunham, R.B., & Cummings, I.L. (1993). Moderation by organization-based self-esteem of role condition-employee response relationships. Academy of Management Journal, 36, 271-286.

Riggio, R.E. (2013). Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (6th edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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