May 8, 2017

The spillover effect and the crucial role of basic needs

Research has shown a correlation exists between how satisfied people are with their job and how satisfied they are with their life. But there are two uncertainties about the relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. First, it is unknown whether this effect primarily happens in the Western world; this is where most of this research has taken place. Second, it is unknown whether there is a causal relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction because most research is correlational. Third, there is no clear explanation for the relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. A new paper provides more clarity in all these questions.

Job satisfaction and life satisfaction

Unanue et al. (2017) analyzed, in three studies, cross-sectional and longitudinal data from workers in chili. Study 1 (N = 636) showed that job satisfaction and life satisfaction predict each other. An increase in job satisfaction led to a later increase in life satisfaction and vice versa. Study 2 (N = 725) and study 3 (N = 703) replicated these findings but also looked at the role which three basic psychological needs, known from self-determination theory (the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness) play. By doing this, it became clear that the satisfaction of the basic needs explains the correlation between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. This research is a complementary indication that the satisfaction of the basic needs is an important key to job satisfaction and life satisfaction. Moreover, satisfaction of the basic needs explains that job satisfaction and life satisfaction spill over into each other (the so-called spillover effect).

Implications

This research has some interesting implications. Job satisfaction and life satisfaction can start up a virtuous circle. Improving satisfaction in one domain may also lead to satisfaction in the other domain. The way to achieve this spillover effect is to increase basic needs satisfaction. Here is a way to work at that.

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