Job satisfaction high despite lack of recognition

Key factors determining quality of work are job and income security, and social, mental and health aspects of work. Despite a high degree of satisfaction, motivation and identification with work, employees complain of a lack of recognition. These are the findings of a 2004 survey in Germany, which explores perspectives on quality in work.

In 2004, the Internationale Institut für Empirische Sozialökonomie (INIFES), in cooperation with the research company TNS Infratest Sozialforschung, conducted an ad-hoc survey on the issue What is good work? Requirements from the perspective of employed people (in German, 592Kb PDF). The survey was carried out among a representative sample of the German working population - 7,444 people including employees and self-employed persons - as part of the New quality of work initiative (INQA). The survey focused on assessing quality in work and particularly examined motivation, work satisfaction and identification with work. In relation to these aspects of quality in work, INQA issued an analysis of the survey’s results (in German).

In terms of methodology, the study begins with a review of relevant theoretical and empirical research at national and international level. This review constitutes the basis for the survey’s research framework as well as for the questionnaire on quality in work and work satisfaction.

The questionnaire (in German, 592Kb PDF) includes questions on satisfaction with regard to content of work, recognition of work done, workload, design of the workplace, physical and mental demands, degree of responsibility, information flow, social relations, capability of supervisors, security of job and work-life balance issues. A range of questions focused on assessing what ‘good work’ is.

Recognition for work done

The survey’s main findings reveal that, despite a high motivation and identification with work, only one third of workers consider that their work is adequately recognised and the majority believe that it rarely or never is.

Almost half of the workers (49%) often or always feel ‘empty’ and burned out, and 43% of the respondents claimed that they are not able to recover fully from work during non-working time. In addition, some 30% of the workers surveyed find their work often or always frustrating (Table 1).

Table 1: Recognition from work, 2004 (%)
Recognition from work in the last four weeks, 2004 (%)
How often did it occur in the last four weeks that you: Never Seldom Often Always
felt particularly committed to the company 9 39 33 18
felt empty and burned out 9 41 44 5
could not recover from work during your time off 16 39 39 4
found your work frustrating 23 46 27 3
felt uneasy about your occupational future 24 36 31 8

Source: INIFES, First results, 2005

Work satisfaction

The analysis of the survey results distinguishes between different levels and types of work satisfaction and dissatisfaction, namely:

  • satisfied with the existing situation - work satisfaction is based on the fact that everything remains as is (stabilisierte Zufriedenheit );
  • conditionally satisfied - work satisfaction is related to possible changes in the future (progressive Zufriedenheit );
  • satisfied in a resigned way - work satisfaction comes from the view that ‘it could be worse’ and that ‘one should be happy to have work today’ (resignierte Zufriedenheit );
  • dissatisfied without any prospect for change - workers openly express their dissatisfaction about their workplace and do not see any prospect for change or possibility to initiate change (fixiert Unzufriedene );
  • dissatisfied, but ready to initiate change - workers openly express their dissatisfaction about their workplace but are ready to take the initiative to change the situation, either on their own or in conjunction with others (konstruktiv Unzufriedene );
  • satisfied or dissatisfied without specific reason (diffus Zufriedene or diffus Unzufriedene ).

Many workers (46%) appear to be satisfied or conditionally satisfied with their work. Overall, satisfaction rates are higher in the private sector than in the public sector and are also higher at workplaces with employee representation.

Moreover, older workers seem to be more satisfied than younger workers (Table 2). Young people believe that they do not have an opportunity to use their creativity at work or to take responsibility. They are also dissatisfied with regard to pay equity and job security.

Table 2: Forms of work satisfaction, by age, sector and employee representation, 2004 (%)
Forms of work satisfaction, by age, sector and employee representation, 2004 (%)
Form of work (dis)satisfaction Total Sector Employee representation Age
    Public Private Yes No Less than 30 years 30-50 years 50 years and more
Satisfied with the existing situation 21 23 21 20 23 11 23 29
Conditionally satisfied 25 30 23 29 18 30 26 15
Satisfied in a resigned way 15 11 16 15 16 16 14 17
Dissatisfied without any prospect for change 4 5 3 4 4 2 4 7
Dissatisfied, but ready to initiate change 21 16 22 18 24 26 20 17
Satisfied or dissatisfied without specific reason 14 15 14 14 15 16 14 15

Source: INIFES, First results, 2005

Differences in the perception of work satisfaction also exist between west and east Germany: in west Germany, 47% of the workers surveyed are satisfied and conditionally satisfied, compared with 42% of the respondents in east Germany.

The highest degree of work dissatisfaction is perceived by the survey respondents in relation to income level (44%), further education (38%) and quality of supervisor (36%). Table 3 shows notable differences between the workers’ responses in west and east Germany.

Table 3: Areas most in need of action (multiple responses possible, %)
Areas most in need of action (multiple responses possible, %)
Areas most in need of action: West East Total
Income level 42 55 44
Further education/qualification 39 34 38
Quality of supervisor 37 30 36
Job security 29 40 31
Relations with colleagues 28 24 27
Job demands 24 20 23
Employee participation 22 23 22
Working time arrangements 21 24 21
Pace of work and pressure to perform well 20 14 19
Occupational health and safety 12 13 12

Source: INIFES, First results, 2005

Job demands

A majority of the workers surveyed consider that the demands of their jobs in terms of workload, occupational knowledge and skills, and ability to organise and plan, are just right. However, 34% of the survey respondents feel that the workload is too high, 27% believe that they cannot utilise all their skills and knowledge, and 28% find that they cannot demonstrate their organisational and planning abilities (Table 4).

Table 4: Demands of job, 2004 (%)
Match of jobs and demands, 2004 (%)
Mismatch in job demands regarding: Far too high A little too high Just right A little too low Far too low
Workload 4 30 53 10 2
Occupational knowledge and skills 1 11 60 22 5
Ability to organise and plan 1 9 62 22 6

Source: INIFES, First results, 2005

Defining good work

The survey respondents were asked to rank 60 aspects of what they believed constituted ‘good work’. They attached the highest importance to income and job security, followed by aspects of social relations at work, job content, the opportunity to fulfil oneself at work, and behaviour of and recognition by supervisors. Occupational health and safety ranked seventh.

Table 5: Most important aspects of ‘good work’, 2004 (%)
Aspects of ‘good work’ that are extremely or very important, 2004 (%)
Most important aspects Extremely important Very important
Fixed, reliable income 63 30
Job security 63 25
Enjoyment of work 47 38
Respect as a human being by supervisor 45 39
Permanent employment contract 59 24
Support from colleagues 32 44
Occupational health and safety 35 39
Significance or meaningfulness of work 28 46
Pride in one’s work 30 43
Variety in work 29 44

Source: INIFES, First results, 2005

Anni Weiler, AWWW GmbH ArbeitsWelt - Working World

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