The relationship between supervisor and employee and job satisfaction

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The relationship between supervisor and employee and job satisfaction is a subject of debate in organizations and this leads to studies being done to measure the exact influence of the relationship and how it affects the organizations (Petersitzke 2008, p33). In organizational settings, employees work under supervision. The kind of relationship between the two inevitably affects the employee's performance. The way an employee feels about his job determines how he does it (Hosie et al 2006, p44). Dissatisfied employees find no enjoyment in their work (Callaway). Agreeably, varied factors affect an employee's performance, though experts hold the belief that employee performance is tagged to the supervisory relationship. Opposers to this view claim that job satisfaction is not wholly determined by the employee-supervisory relationship but by other factors (Srivastva, 1975 p34). This paper reviews the arguments supporting, and opposing the notion that there is a relationship between supervisor and employee and job satisfaction.


The articles reviewed for this paper reveal the following key arguments in favor to the proposition that there is a relationship between supervisor employee and job satisfaction. Scholars studying organizational dynamics have recognized that most of employees' difficulties are an outcome of the relationship between employee and supervisor. Their findings reveal a telling but distressing twist; that majority of the supervisors are not aware of the impact of the relationship on the effectiveness of a subordinate (Childress & Childress 2007, p23). A consistent finding confirms that employees are very dexterous at reading the signals of their supervisors. Thus they hastily learn the supervisor's negative attitude toward them. This inevitably strains the relationship between the employee and the supervisor. In such an environment, the affected employee will hardly derive satisfaction from his job as he would be suffering from low self esteem and morale. Unfortunately, the supervisor may not be aware of her own unintentional culpability (Lussier 1989, p155).

Further studies reveal that supervisors classify their subordinates as either good or not good at what they do in the first days on the job. Once a subordinate has been classified in a group, it is unlikely that the supervisor will reclassify him regardless of how much better he becomes. If the supposedly not too good employee is actually indicating positive performance abilities that go unrecognized, he will feel frustrated and he wouldn't be able to derive satisfaction from his job (Callaway 2007, p18).

Manzoni and Barsoux utilized the set up to fail syndrome to depict the outcome of relationship between the supervisor and the employee; at the outset of this relationship, the two have a cordial relationship. However, an insignificant letdown by the employee triggers increased vigilance and supervision. The supervisor acquires an amplified attentiveness to errors the subordinate make albeit the majority are unimportant. Consequently the employee recognizes the absence of trust and abhors the heightened supervision. The one time amiable working relationship grows strained with the outcome invariably being an excessively callous or aloof supervisor and a subordinate who is discouraged, apprehensive and tottering around quitting. Such a subordinate will not only never derive any satisfaction in his work, he would dread coming to work, resulting in cases of absenteeism (Saari & Judge 2004, p43).

Contrary to the above arguments, some argue that there is no relationship between supervisor and employee and job satisfaction. The literature suggests the following in support of this contention. Hackman, and Oldham argue that job satisfaction is determined by the employee's job expectations, the things that individuals looks for or need from a job; security, remuneration, status and autonomy. They argue that some employees have heightened expectations for jobs than others. This they claim leads to dissatisfaction in the job (Lussier 1989, p155).

The Hawthorne studies demonstrated that new changes in work environment provisionally enhanced productivity. These studies further established that the enhanced productivity was not a consequence of the new environment, but from the workers knowledge that they were under observation, that is supervision. This led to low morale and less job satisfaction (Childress & Childress, 2007 p25)

Edwin Locke's range of affect theory hypotheses that satisfaction is influenced by inconsistency between the perks employees wish for in a job and the actual extras employees have in a job. In addition, Range of Affect Theory argues that the degree with which an employee values a particular perk of a job (for instance, the status that comes with a particular position) influences how satisfied/or dissatisfied the employee gets when anticipations are met or dashed. If the employee values a particular perk of the job her satisfaction is significantly influenced both positively (if anticipations are met) and negatively (if hopes are dashed), contrasted to an employee who doesn't value that perk. To demonstrate Range of Affect Theory, if subordinate 0 values status in the place of work and subordinate 1 is unconcerned about status, hence subordinate 0 would be further satisfied in a position that proffers an elevated degree of status and less satisfied in a position with little or no status compared to subordinate 1. Range of affect theory also argues that large amounts of a given perk will generate stronger feelings of dissatisfaction the more an employee values that perk (Saari & Judge, 2004 p396).

A different but familiar job satisfaction hypothesis is the dispositional theory. Dispositional theory is a very broad hypothesis that suggests that individuals posses intrinsic temperaments that influences them to have a penchant for a definite level of satisfaction, in spite of his or her job. This advance became a prominent clarification of job satisfaction in light of proof that job satisfaction is inclined to be unwavering at the end of the day, across careers and jobs (Childress & Childress, 2007, p27).

An important model that contracted the span of the dispositional theory was the basic self-appraisals model, proposed by Timothy Judge. Judge argued that there are four basic self-appraisals that influence an employee's temperament towards job satisfaction: sense of worth, common self-efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism. This model suggests that heightened levels of self-worth (the value an employee places on herself or himself) and common self-efficacy (the confidence in one's own competence) lead to elevated job satisfaction. Possessing an innate locus of control (trusting one has control over his or her own destiny, as opposed to external forces possessing control) leads to elevated job satisfaction. Finally, diminished levels of neuroticism lead to elevated job satisfaction (Lussier., 1989 p160)

Frederick Herzberg's two factor hypothesis (also recognized as motivator hygiene theory) endeavors to clarify satisfaction and motivation in the place of work. This hypothesis argues that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are compelled by diverse dynamics-motivation and hygiene dynamics, respectively. A subordinate's motivation to work is repetitively correlated to job satisfaction of an employee. Motivation is seen as an intrinsic power that compels persons to achieve individual and organizational targets. Motivating dynamics are those facets of the job that trigger employees to want to perform, and proffers employees with satisfaction such as accomplishment in work, appreciation and prospects for promotion. These motivating dynamics are thought to be innate to the job, or the work done. Hygiene dynamics comprise facets of the working environment for example compensation, organizational policies, supervisory practices, and other working conditions (Hosie et al 2006, p45).

Even as Hertzberg's model roused many investigations into this subject, scholars have not been able to dependably practically verify the model, with Hackman & Oldham arguing that Hertzberg's original formulation of the model may have been a methodological artifact. In addition, the hypothesis does not reflect on individual disparities, equally expecting all subordinates to respond in a similar way to alterations in motivational or hygiene dynamics. Finally, the model has been criticized in that it does not specify how motivational or hygiene dynamics are to be quantified (Srivastva, 1975 p35).

Hackman and Oldham proposed job characteristics model suggests that there are five core job characteristics (expertise diversity, task distinctiveness, task importance, independence, and response) which influence three decisive psychological conditions (experienced significance, experienced accountability for results, and knowledge of the real outcomes), in turn influencing work outcomes (job satisfaction, absenteeism, work motivation, etc.) (Sias 2009, p27).


In conclusion, the relationship between supervisor-employee and job satisfaction is remarkably complex and entails numerous determining dynamics. It is argued that an affable relationship between supervisor and employee leads to job satisfaction. On the other hand it also argued that job satisfaction has no direct correlation to the supervisor-employee relationship but is dependent on varied dynamics including the expectations the employee has about the job and what the job actually proffers him or her. It is irrefutable, however, that an amiable supervisor-employee relationship builds the employee's morale, this makes him to feel affective about his job, especially when his efforts are recognized and rewarded. This brings him satisfaction in his job. Thus, he strives to achieve both organizational and personal goals. Though merely one of the dynamics, that determines job satisfaction, nevertheless valid, it would then be misguiding to argue against the existence of a correlation between supervisor-employee relationship and job satisfaction.