Job satisfaction and job performance: is the relationship spurious?



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The link between job satisfaction and job performance is one of the most studied relationships in industrial/organizational psychology. Meta-analysis (Judge, Thoresen, Bono, & Patton, 2001) has estimated the magnitude of this relationship to be ? = .30. With many potential causal models that explain this correlation, one possibility is that the satisfaction-performance relationship is actually spurious, meaning that the correlation is due to common causes of both constructs. Drawing upon personality theory and the job characteristics model, this study presents a meta-analytic estimate of the population-level relationship between job satisfaction and job performance, controlling for commonly studied predictors of both. Common causes in this study include personality trait Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and core selfevaluations, along with cognitive ability and job complexity. Structural equation modeling of the meta-analytic correlation matrix suggests a residual correlation of .16 between job satisfaction and performance?roughly half the magnitude of the zero-order correlation. Following the test of spuriousness, I then propose and find support for an integrated theoretical model in which job complexity and job satisfaction serve as mediators for the effects of personality and ability on work outcomes. Results from this model suggest that job complexity is negatively related to satisfaction and performance, once ability and personality are controlled. Contributions of this paper include estimating the extent to which the satisfaction-performance relationship is partly spurious, which is an advancement because the attitude-behavior link has not been estimated in light of personality and job characteristics. Another contribution is the integrated theoretical model, which illuminates mediators in some of the effects of personality and ability.