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Job Satisfaction and Motivation: Process and Content Theories


The concepts of job satisfaction and motivation are linked in various ways. Job satisfaction mainly gives a description of how a job can elicit and manipulate the feelings of an employee. Ideologically, if an individual is happy with his/her job, then job satisfaction will emanate. Job satisfaction is important to the lives of individuals since it influences the whole life experience of the individual. A comprehensive definition of job satisfaction is that it is the pleasurable and emotional state that results from the perception of an individual’s job or enabling the achievement of an individual’s job values.

Job motivation on the other hand is simply a process that has the potential of leading an individual to job satisfaction. It is related to the personal feelings of achievement of an individual. It is necessary to understand the internal cognitive processes, that is, the feelings of people and their ways of thinking so as to understand job motivation (Beck 2004, p. 56). Generally, job satisfaction and motivation influence the performance of employees. This paper seeks to give two different views of job satisfaction and job motivation by looking at two theories. These are the content and the process theories of job satisfaction and job motivation.

Content Theories of Job Satisfaction and Job Motivation

Job satisfaction and motivation can be viewed from two different perspectives as indicated earlier. Contextually, content theories mainly focus on the relative strengths and needs of individuals (employees) with regard to job satisfaction and motivation. It is crucial to motivate employees in order to enhance their productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction among others. Additionally, such individuals focus on specific goals so as to satisfy their needs.

The main content theories include hierarchy of needs theory, theory X as well as theory Y, the two factor theory, and finally the achievement theory (Miner 2007, p.47). The focus of these content theories is the definition of behaviors of respective individuals with regard to motivation and job satisfaction. Critics have however pointed that these theories ignore the processes that lead to motivation and hence satisfaction. This means that the content theories usually do not look into the link between needs and behavior. It is critical to understand such provisions in order to comprehend the aspects of job satisfaction and motivation.

The hierarchies of needs theory notes that people usually first satisfy their most basic needs first and then seeks to satisfy the other needs later. The most basic needs are those that are necessary to make life comfortable like housing while the higher needs like self esteem and self actualization. This theory has been widely recognized and has provided perspective in how to view needs and expectations of individuals. It has also enabled organizations how to motivate workers so that they be satisfied with their jobs. The two factor theory has received wide recognition too. It proposes that job motivators such as responsibility and recognition are linked to job satisfaction. It further states that the job context such as hygiene and supervision, on the other hand, are linked to job dissatisfaction (Miner, 2007, p.47).

The Process Theories of Job Satisfaction and Job Motivation

The process theories of job satisfaction and job motivation focus on the process of motivation as the driving factor to satisfaction. The theories focus on the links between various variables that constitute motivation and the ways that these variables initiate, direct, and sustain behaviors of individuals. The expectancy theory, equity theory, goal theory, and the attribution theory are some of the main process theories developed. The expectancy theory states that job satisfaction is influenced by situational and personality variables of individuals.

The argument of this theory is that the tendency to behave in a given way relies on the strength, expectations, behaviors, and attractiveness of the outcome. However, application of this theory is difficult since work motivation is complex. Additionally, individuals rarely take time to note down the expected results for their contemplated behaviors. An improvement of the expectancy theory is the discrepancy theory, which states that the expectations of people and what they actually get is what determines satisfaction. The other process theory is the equity theory. It notes that satisfaction is concerned with the ratio of what an individual gets from his job relative to his input in the job. This means that individuals usually evaluate their input-outcome equity by making comparison with what they think others in a similar position receive.

It is clear from the above arguments that the content theories are more applicable in analysis of job satisfaction than the process theories. The two factor theory is the most developed and applicable satisfaction theory. It particularly shows that the job that an individual does should enable the individual to use his talents and abilities and also enable the individual exercise self control. The theory further proposes that the job should enable the individual to learn and grow (Schermerhorn 2011, p. 107).

This shows a direct link between job satisfaction, job motivation and high performance. The content theories further show the links between job satisfaction and the performance of the individuals. Individuals who are satisfied with their jobs are likely to be better performers than those who are not satisfied with the jobs that they do. The process theories, in contrast, focus on the relationships between variables. The expectancy theory, for example, focus on the complexity of work motivation. It further dwells on the relationship that exists between motivation, satisfaction and the performance of individuals. This shows that the process theories provide an indirect and also weak link between job satisfaction, job motivation and performance.


With regard to job satisfaction and motivation, the two concepts are linked. They pose remarkable influence on the performance of employees. Job satisfaction mainly gives a description of how an individual feels about the job while job motivation is a process that leads to an individual being satisfied with his work. The links between the two and their relationship with performance have been explained through the content and the process theories of job satisfaction and motivation.

However, it is the content theories that have provided a more direct link between motivation, satisfaction, and performance. Conversely, the process theories provide an indirect link between the mentioned concepts. They mainly focus on the relationships of factors that affect satisfaction, motivation, and performance. In conclusion, there is no universal agreement about which theory best explains job satisfaction and motivation. However, there is a broad view that satisfaction involves a person’s feelings about the job in general. It also relates to the individuals’ commitment to the organizations they serve. Individuals who are not satisfied with their jobs are likely to leave the organization after a short time.

List of References

Beck, R 2004, Motivation: theories and principles, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Miner, J 2007, Organizational behavior. 4, From theory to practice, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY.

Schermerhorn, J 2011, Organizational behavior, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.