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The secrets to job satisfaction? Time and change

Job satisfaction increases as people get older but – paradoxically – declines the longer they stay in a job according to new research forthcoming in the Journal of Management. 

The paper shows that people’s satisfaction in a job gradually declines over the years – until they move to a new organisation, when they experience a boost. Then, the cycle of decline begins again.

Happy OfficeHowever, as people get older, they become generally more satisfied with their working lives. According to the researchers, one reason for this is that older people are often better paid than their younger colleagues. Indeed, people can even experience higher job satisfaction in the same job if their pay increases. In addition, as workers age, they may also have more realistic expectations of work or have higher status jobs, which results in higher job satisfaction.

Dr Shoshana Dobrow Riza, Assistant Professor of Management at LSE and one of the authors of the report, said: “It’s important that people understand that these up-and-down job satisfaction cycles in their careers are normal and sometimes the answer is to find a new job, but not always.

“Individuals and managers can be proactive in helping ward off declining satisfaction by finding ways to redesign work to make it more motivating and meaningful. This might be the opportunity to introduce novelty by rotating to a new job, undertaking a different type of assignment or taking a sabbatical.

“Older workers, with their higher levels of job satisfaction, could be a valuable resource to mentor younger members of staff – re-energising older workers and motivating younger workers.”

The researchers point out that many factors beyond age, tenure and pay, including how the work is designed and an organisation’s culture, also play a role in how satisfied people are with their work.

They note that moving organisation doesn’t guarantee increased job satisfaction and recognise that job satisfaction isn’t the only factor that should be taken into account when considering a career move.

Data from two cohorts of the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, involving 21,670 participants spanning 40 years, was analysed for this study.

The research was undertaken by Dr Shoshana Dobrow Riza from LSE, Professor Yoav Ganzach from Tel Aviv University and Yihao Liu from the University of Florida.

Posted: Monday 11 April 2016

Notes to Editors

Time and Job Satisfaction: A Longitudinal Study of the Differential Roles of Age and Tenure , Journal of Management. 

For more information 

Sue Windebank, LSE press office, T: + 44 (0)207 849 4624, E: s.windebank@lse.ac.uk