New research shows that having employees love what they do won’t help in the long run if they don’t feel loved by their employer. The emotional high we get from the satisfaction of a job won’t be sustainable without other emotional needs being addressed like conflict management, respect, and trust.
The words “job satisfaction” and “morale” are often confused as being twins. While they are definitely related they have very different personalities. The statistical correlation between the two terms is very high. Which means they have a strong connection. But they are very different concepts when you start peeling back the layers.
I like to say to students that “Job satisfaction is what you love doing, morale is how much you are loved.” You can bury yourself in the deep academic literature on this, but let me give you some real worklife results from my research with over 2,000 employees at a very diverse workplace.
In this particular organization job satisfaction was rated at 66%. Not great and barely a pass. But morale was rated at 47%, a failing grade as my MBA students know. While the ratings varied across over 85 different work units one thing was consistent. Those with high job satisfaction rated other workplace factors a lot different than those with high morale.
In my study those with high (somewhat and very) morale gave far higher good-job ratings to having their opinion asked, to having a respected supervisor, to having effective conflict management, being recognized for a job well done, employees being held accountable and…get this…having an emotionally safe workplace.
Psychologist Frederick Herzberg studied employee motivation back in the 1950s and 60s. He came up with the concepts of “extrinsic” motivation and “intrinsic” motivation. Simple language: Extrinsic is getting motivated by things like the money and benefits you get. Intrinsic is about factors like being respected, having great two-way communications, and other factors that speak to your emotional needs.
In my study those employees who agreed they had high morale rated having an emotionally safe workplace at an average of 4.27 out of 5.0 on a five-point scale (very poor to very good). Those who agreed they had high job satisfaction rated having an emotionally safe workplace at 3.92. That’s a big difference.
High morale employees also rated having a trusted supervisor at 4.40 out of 5.0 while high job satisfaction employees rating trust at 4.09. Yes, still high. But those who love what they do don’t have the same level of trust in supervisors as those employees with high morale. Of course the opposite was also true. Low morale employees gave crater deep ratings to important emotional factors.
In anything, this study again coinfirms the importance of the emotional factors in a workplace. I know from experience those who entered a profession with strong dedication, loyalty, and love of the job to have that gradually extinguished as the emotional support factors either eroded or never existed.