Short Report: Resilience Interacts with Job Performance to Predict Job Satisfaction

Want to feel more satisfied at work? It's not only about performing highly, but also about being resilient. Find out here how that all fits together.

Author: Tyler Phillips, Research Psychologist and Lead Content Specialist

We’d all like to be happy with performing our jobs, right? Our weekdays (never mind the rest of our lives) would be much more enjoyable, meaningful, and motivating if we were satisfied with those activities that take up a majority of their time. Job satisfaction is a desirable thing, and not just for employees, but for their employers too. It’s been found that a satisfied employee has better relationships with their colleagues, tends to be absent less often, and has greater commitment to their organization (and lower intentions to leave) compared to their less-satisfied peers. Given this, it seems logical to say that satisfied workers are also better workers – in other words, they have greater job performance.   

However, and surprisingly, that hasn’t been confirmed. Some studies have found the relationship between job performance and job satisfaction to be weak. Other studies have not managed to reach a consensus on the pattern of the relationship: is it positive (i.e., they both go up together) or negative (i.e., one goes up while the other goes down)? They also haven’t clarified the direction of the relationship: does increasing job performance lead to increased job satisfaction, or the other way around?

One reason this relationship is muddled could, at least partly, be due to these studies leaving out a very important variable: resilience. Resilience represents the capacity to adapt to overcome stressors and challenges, and to learn from that process. It follows that resilient workers can likely handle job-related stress well, and so will possibly be higher performers compared to their non-resilient peers, at least in certain respects.  Additionally, resilient people tend to be better at managing negative emotions and at channeling positive ones, and so they may have fewer difficulties finding a sense of satisfaction with their jobs compared to less-resilient people. Job performance seems to be enhanced by resilience, and so does job satisfaction (for these and possibly other reasons). Resilience may therefore be one of the missing links in the middle of the relationship between job performance and job satisfaction.  

To test this idea, we analyzed data we’ve collected from almost 600 people across 18 industries. This data includes their scores on the Neurozone® Resilience Index (NRI) and on our measures of self-rated job satisfaction and job performance. Our results reveal a very interesting, and strong, relationship. In particular, we found that resilience interacts with job performance to predict job satisfaction. Consider the graph below:

NZ_Branded graph_NRI + Job performance + satisfaction (1)

In this graph, the blue line represents individuals with higher resilience, the pink line represents individuals with average resilience, and the green line represents individuals with lower resilience. These lines show that, when everyone performs poorly (bottom left), individuals with higher resilience are less satisfied with their jobs compared to individuals with lower resilience. However, when job performance starts to improve for everyone, individuals with higher resilience begin to surpass individuals with lower resilience in terms of job satisfaction (indicated by the crossover of the lines on the graph). In other words, when everyone performs highly (top right), individuals with higher resilience become more satisfied with their jobs than individuals with lower resilience.

How might we interpret this relationship? Inspecting the NRI, we know that resilient people tend to have higher levels of “mastery motivation”, which entails feeling confident in their ability to manage stress, and being in touch with the emotional rewards of triumphing in their pursuits. Performing successfully might therefore be more valuable to them than it is for their less-resilient peers. When these highly resilient people do not perform well at work – especially due to reasons outside their control (e.g., their working conditions and organizational processes do not enable their success) – it may be felt as a bigger knock to their sense of being satisfied at that work. In contrast, a supporting explanation could involve the finding that many people with low resilience tend to struggle more with depressive and anxious symptoms, as well as with stress management. As such, performing greatly and feeling super satisfied at their jobs may be less of a priority to them than simply managing to make it through the day. If their performance dips (even for those reasons outside their control), it may not necessarily be felt as a reason to be dissatisfied with their jobs. Rather, it may be felt as a confirmation that what is getting in their way is their own psychological difficulties, instead of the difficulties of their jobs. 

What does this mean for enhancing job satisfaction? It means that the best way for these employees to maximize their job satisfaction is for them to enhance both their resilience and their job performance. In other words, these two variables (job performance and resilience) interact with one another to produce the best job satisfaction results. The same thing might be true for all employees out there. 

What employers should do, therefore, is (1) promote a culture where employees can work on the granular behaviors that tend to enhance resilience, as well as (2) create working conditions that enable employees to perform as well as they can in their jobs. When that is done, employees should become more satisfied with the work they do on a daily basis. They should then be more engaged with and committed to their organization – and they should have a greater sense of psychological well-being and thriving not just at work, but in the other areas of their lives, too.    

How can we help you?

We specialize in training professionals who use a coaching approach to optimize their people.

Contact Cuan Macnab-Holding, Neurozone Consultant: Business Development & Organizational Resilience



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