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The case of Melinda Wilkerson and Ron Agua is an interesting study of contrasting

expectations, motivations, personalities, and ultimately, satisfaction with the jobs


which they both hold. Each is a first-year assistant instructor at the college leveleach has the same general responsibilities, but the ways in which these
responsibilities has transformed the perception of the job has changed the ways in
which the job is carried out, including a now second-semester difference in pay.
There are two basic theories that can account for this difference-one, a motivationhygiene theory put forward by Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman (1993), based on
Herzberg's original work of 1959, discusses motivation in terms of positive
motivations and negative motivations, akin to Maslow's (1943) theory of
hierarchical needs. These theories would be content theories, in which all
individuals posses the same set of needs (security, belonging, etc) and how these
needs ought to be present in the work situation, and any differences arising in
motivation would be traceable to a lack in one of these needs. The other theory
applicable in this case is Adam's Equity Theory, which refers to the differences in
perception (referents) between workers as a basis of determining what is fair. This is
also a theory of motivation, and utilizes informal benchmarks of what is appropriate,
expected, and generated. Input comes from a variety of sources-friends, colleagues,
family, and other sources of facts and opinions. Motivation, in this case, is exerted
when there is a perception of fairness, while motivation decreases when the outputs
(salary, bonuses, different treatment, etc) are not equitable.
Maslow (1943) believed that human beings are motivated by needs which represent
a lack of some kind, and that humans are not motivated by the needs higher on the
list (the more abstract until the physiological, security, and social needs are met.
Once these needs have been met, however, the healthy individual becomes
motivated b the so-called higher order needs, such as recognition, belief in the self,
and the realization of full potential as a human being. In the Wilkerson and Agua
case, we assume that their basic physiological needs (food, shelter and clothing)
have been met. There appears, however, to be a disconnect where security is
concerned. It is noted that Wilkerson is making less money than she thought she
would, and has longer hours. Agua, on the other hand, has managed to reduce his
workload and has, in fact, performed more work in a different capacity (working on
the library committee, speaking to various groups, publishing studies) than
Wilkerson was aware that she could also do. From her perspective, there is no time
for such activities, and the only thing she can do is to continue to slog through the
work that she has, foregoing more pleasant and important social obligations which
would help her out and help her to meet her security needs.
Herzberg suggested that there are six factors associated with job performance and
attitude, essentially related to job satisfaction. Herzberg posits that those factors
relating to job dissatisfaction are company policy, supervision, relationship with the
boss, work conditions, salary, and relationships with peers. Positive factors relating
to job satisfaction are achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility,
advancement, and growth. It is easy enough to se how these relate in a Maslovian
way-the first six are essentially lower-order needs dependent on others for
realization, while the factors related to job satisfaction are of a higher order, having

to do with more intrinsic motivation and realization of the work self.


We see some of these in the case with Wilkerson and Agua. Wilkerson, by inference,
is constrained by a "company" policy of which she is unaware, and does not know
that she can do differently than she has been given. Thus, her work conditions and
her salary are adversely affected, and she has several motivators that, because the
work environment is now more negative than it was in the first semester, are
causing a potential job dissatisfaction. Agua, on the other hand, has apparently
successfully negotiated the lower-order needs, has had them met, and is now
motivated in an entirely different way than is Wilkerson. He seems happier, he has
more job variety, has some recognition for what he has done, and has more positive
work conditions and a higher salary than does Wilkerson.
Adams' Equity Theory appears to fit most precisely with this specific case. Equity
theory, as mentioned, is an explanation of relational theory in terms of the
perceptions of the employees and whether their work environments and/or relations
with others in the organization are fair or unfair. Suppose that all of the work of an
organization is quantifiable, and that that finite amount of work is distributed over
the organization as fairly as possible, depending on the employees' skills and
interests and capabilities. As long as the work distribution is perceived as fair (in
this case, as long as Wilkerson's and Agua's work is similar and equitable), the
employees feel no discomfort or anxiety about what they are doing. But when there
are significant differences that develop (Agua has more free time, is getting a
reputation for himself, has more opportunities for more challenging and engaging
work that matches his core self-evaluation, and Wilkerson seem more frozen in
place without the opportunities that Agua has), the workload seems unfairly
distributed, and a sense of anxiety develops with regard to the work, as was clearly
the case with Wilkerson.
Tellingly, however, was the last paragraph when the note slid out of a student
journal, and Wilkerson realized that her work was satisfying, and the implication was
that the differences no longer mattered. Here we see another factor at work, that of
personality. It is mentioned that Agua sees his work with students as interfering with
what he perceives to be his work-"With all those students around all the time, I just
never had a chance to get my work done." Wilkerson, on the other hand, perceives
her work to be what she does with her students, and so now there is a
differentiation in the job itself, and whether the work is fairly distributed or not is
now irrelevant. What made it fair in the first place was the perceived fact that they
had the same jobs. Now, owing to personality differences, it isn't the same job at all.
Judge, Bono, and Locke posit that what they term core self-evaluation is where the
personality influences the relationship between job characteristics and job
satisfaction, which includes the motivation to do it. The relationship, the authors
say, is purely a perceptual process. As they state: "individuals with positive selfevaluations may see their jobs as more challenging simply because they are
predisposed to perceive all aspects of their jobs positively. According to this
explanation, there would not be a link between core self-evaluations and the actual

characteristics of jobs held (i.e., positive individuals do not really have jobs that are
more challenging, they simply view their jobs as more challenging). Thus, it is
critical to understanding the role of core self-evaluations in job satisfaction to begin
to sort out differences
in perceptions from differences in actual jobs held." (p 237-238).
A graphic illustrates this relationship perfectly. Each of the nodes of the graphic
assume that there is a one-way positive relationship between core self-evaluation,
perceived job characteristics, job complexity, and job satisfaction. It is the core selfevaluation (the personalities of the employees and their beliefs about themselves
as workers in that environment) that drives the perception of fairness or unfairness
in the workplace, and these perceptions are really the ultimate determiners of job
satisfaction in the end.

(Judge, Bono, and Locke, 2000)


Equity Theory, then, explains the case of Wilkerson and Agua quite clearly. The case
primarily detailed Wilkerson's reasons for her distress. Adams refers to this distress
as the result of a perception of inequity in the relationship between Wilkerson and
Agua. Distress is uncomfortable, and the distressed party or parties will try to do
something to bring equity back into the relationship. Wilkerson is more distressed
than Agua, it seems, since he has more positives. Wilkerson's response to the
inequity, her way of removing her distress, is top realize that her personality is more
responsive to students' needs than it is to the work that Agua is doing, and here she
realizes that, because of that, the expectations for them both are now different, at

least from their own self-perceptions. With the realization that she is indeed doing
hat she does best, her distress over the perceived unfairness of the situation has
eased. Her inputs now (time, effort, loyalty, hard work, commitment, ability,
tolerance, determination, and personal sacrifice) are commensurate with her
outputs (security, reputation, responsibility, sense of achievement, and thanks), and
she can now perceive her work as fair.
References
Adams, J. Stacey. "Towards an Understanding of Inequity." The Journal of Abnormal
and Social Psychology, Vol 67(5), Nov 1963, 422-436.
Herzberg, Frederick, Mausner, Bernard, and Snyderman, Barbara Bloch. The
Motivation to Work. Transaction Publishers.
Judge, Timothy A., Bono, Joyce E., and Locke, Edwin A. "Personality and Job
Satisfaction: The Mediating Role of Job Characteristics." Journal of Applied
Psychology, 2000, Vol. 85, No. 2, 237-249.
Maslow, A.H. "A Theory of Human Motivation." Psychological Review, 50(4) (1943),
370-96.