Job Satisfaction of Architects According to Career Stages: An
Istanbul University, Department of Architecture, Turkey
Istanbul Technical University, Department of Architecture, Turkey
Enhancing workplace happiness can be a means to attain the desired organizational
outcomes, since happier employees tend to have a higher job performance, a better
communication with colleagues, and they are less likely to quit job. As a fundamental
component of workplace happiness, job satisfaction is the most commonly investigated
construct in different settings, although little empirical evidence exists for the AEC
professionals. Job satisfaction levels of professionals tend to change over time, since different
motivations and expectations come into play in different stages of the career life cycle. In
collaboration with The Istanbul Chamber of Architects, a questionnaire survey was delivered
to Istanbul-based professionals to measure their job satisfaction level using the Minnesota
Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ). The questionnaire included also an open question, for
which 132 architects responded: What are the factors that affect your job satisfaction?’
Descriptive statistics and the outputs of qualitative content analyses reveal that the job
satisfaction of architects is lower when compared with that of other occupations. The average
job satisfaction level of architects increases when they climb the career ladder. While the
importance of intrinsic factors like authority, responsibility and independence are likely to
rise; the importance of extrinsic factors like supervision-human relations, compensation, co-
workers and working conditions decline, when the architects move up in the career ladder.
Keywords: happiness, job satisfaction, AEC industry, architects, architectural design.
Happiness is the ultimate goal of every person through a lifetime. Although some argue that
happiness cannot be chased, but it is the natural outcome of hard work and good life; others
argue that happiness is a manageable phenomenon. The interdisciplinary literature on
happiness suggests a significant correlation between life satisfaction and job satisfaction,
while they also strongly shape each other. Happiness in the workplace generally results in
higher job performance, career success, creativity, productivity, autonomy, a better
communication with colleagues. Additionally, happy employees are less likely to quit their
5th International Project and Construction Management Conference (IPCMC 2018)
Cyprus International University, Faculty of Engineering, Civil Engineering Department, North Cyprus
jobs. Enhancing workplace happiness can be a means to attain the desired organizational
and individual outcomes. To best of authors’ knowledge, no research study has yet focused
on the nature of this relationship in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC)
sector, with a special focus on architects. Likewise, addition of a time layer to these studies,
which requires an investigation of how the factors affecting happiness are changing through
the career life cycle of professionals, is a knowledge gap in the general happiness research.
Following sections shorty review the literature on happiness, job satisfaction and career-
stages, before presenting the findings of an empirical research which aimed to investigate the
factors that affect the job satisfaction of architects, based on a combined analysis of
quantitative and qualitative data.
Happiness and Job Satisfaction
McGonagle (2015) argues that happiness consists of five elements which are positive
emotions, low levels of negative emotions, satisfaction, meaning and engagement. First three
of them are related to hedonia and subjective well-being, while the last two are related to
eudaimonia and objective well-being. According to Carr (2003), there are at least two inputs
of happiness; affective factors which represent experimenting positive emotions like joy,
satisfaction, pleasure, and cognitive factors which occur via evaluating satisfaction from
different life inputs. Available literature broadly categorizes the main causes of happiness into
3 main groups: (i) individual causes (consisting of genetic determinants inside the person that
designate the attitude towards being more or less happy); (ii) environmental causes
(environmental circumstances that effect the happiness level of the person); and (iii) the
transactional causes (the interaction between person and situations which alter the happiness
levels). According to Fisher (2010), a fourth category can be added to these: volitional
behaviors. Past studies suggest that genetics determine the 50% of happiness, while about
10% is related to environmental and transactional causes. These two can barely or never be
interfered but a person can control the remaining 40% and alter via volatile happiness
enhancer actions (Boehm and Lyubomirsky 2008). Consequences of happiness can roughly be
summarized as career success, enhanced tendency to desired behaviors/attitudes, health,
physical/psychological resilience and social benefits (McGonagle 2015, Fisher 2010, Boehm
and Lyubomirsky 2008, Lyubomirsky et al. 2005).
Employees come to the workplace with different characteristics, experience and culture. Their
expectations and priorities regarding job characteristics such as payment, advancement,
superiors, colleagues, challenges, and ambiguities largely vary. Employees evaluate these
characteristics according to their unique perceptions and compare them with their
expectations. As a result of this process, workplace happiness occurs (Malik and Subramanian
2015). Researchers frequently use the engagement, organizational commitment, and job
satisfaction constructs to attain a general understanding of the variance in personal happiness
at work. Nearly all of the studies focusing on the happy/productive employee hypothesis uses
job satisfaction construct operationally (Fisher 2010). Researchers classify the causes of
workplace happiness into three groups, namely the individual, environmental and
transactional. Consequences of happiness can be also grouped into three levels including
transient level, person level and unit level, each with different outcomes (Fisher 2010).
Job Satisfaction in Career Stages
According to Hall (2002), “career is the individually perceived sequence of attitudes and
behaviors associated with work-related experiences and activities over the span of the
person’s life.” In one view, career is the socially affected property of an individual; in
another, career is planned and transformed by the organization that the person is co-existing in
broader terms (Baruch and Rosenstein, 1992). Traditional career models are typically clear,
one-dimensional and linear; they assume strong hierarchical organizations to climb the career
ladder through promotion and stereotypes to follow to reach to success. Contemporary career
models, however, follow the current major changes in the society: emphasis is placed on
individuals, rather than organizations; careers are flexible and permeable; roadmaps through
success are blurry and differentiated. Recent career models indicate a shift from linear to
protean career options (Wang and Wanberg 2017).
Career stages may have either a positive or a negative effect on the characteristics and
happiness constructs of workplace. According to Bedeian et al. (1991) career stages have a
significant impact on job performance and task characteristics. Ornstein et al. (1989) argue
that career stages are not only effective on task characteristics, performance, job satisfaction
and engagement, but also forms and strengthens the relationships between them, playing a
moderator role. Rabinowitz and Hall (1981) found that job involvement varies according to
career stages; it drops from higher in early stages to lower in mid- and late-career stages.
Mount (1984) reported similar results: job satisfaction of executives about payment, company
practices and promotion tend to be higher in the early stages and reduces as they pass through
As a sub-component of a broader research effort in collaboration with The Chamber of
Architects of Turkey (CAT), Istanbul Metropolitan Branch, factors that affect the job
satisfaction level of designers according to career stages was investigated, using both
quantitative and qualitative strategies. A questionnaire survey was delivered to Istanbul-based
designers via V.E.T.I, the data gathering and statistics system of Istanbul Technical
University (http://www.veti.itu.edu.tr). The longer version of the Minnesota Satisfaction
Questionnaire (MSQ-1967 revision) was used to measure job satisfaction levels of designers
on a 5-point Likert scale. MSQ measures 20 sub-factors of job satisfaction which fall into 2
major categories (Table 1): intrinsic satisfaction factors refer to a positive feeling toward the
work itself, and extrinsic satisfaction factors refer to factors associated with tangible job
rewards including pay, promotion, supervisory relationships, and working conditions
(Mitchell et al. 1990). While intrinsic satisfaction factors contribute to job satisfaction,
extrinsic satisfaction factors help to prevent dissatisfaction (Szymanski and Parker 1996).
Apart from the Likert-scale questions, the measurement instrument of the field study included
two open-ended questions: “What are the aspects of your current job that you are not satisfied
with?” and “What are the factors that affect your job satisfaction?” 132 designers responded
in total. Table 2 shows the attributes of respondents.
Clarification of cut-off points among career stages can be a problematic issue (Mount 1984).
Traditional methods tend to use variables such as age, occupational tenure, organizational
tenure and positional tenure. Although there are different categorizations of career stages
(Super; Levinson; Brooks & Seers; Morrow & McElory; Meyer; Ornstein, Cron & Slocum;
Mowday; Richters), the following intervals based on age are frequently used by researchers:
early career stage is <30, mid-career stage is between 30-45 and the late career stage is >45.
In hierarchical corporate structures, where vertical advancement is actively followed, the use
of such variables can be quite instrumental. However, in architecture, the creative skills,
social networks and chance factors have a decisive role on the loosely defined career goals of
individuals, who usually work in relatively weaker hierarchical structures in smaller and
flatter organizations. Accordingly, instead of using arbitrary cut-off points, respondents of the
questionnaire were asked to specify their own (perceived) career stage considering the
milestones in their career.
Table 1. Statements of measured factors in Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ).
1. Ability utilization
The chance to do something that makes use of my abilities
The feeling of accomplishment I get from the job
Being able to keep busy all the time
The chances for advancement on this job
The chance to tell other people what to do
6. Company policies and practices
The way company policies are put into practice
My pay and the amount of work I do
The way my co-workers get along with each other
The chance to try my own methods of doing the job
The chance to work alone on the job
11. Moral values
Being able to do things that don’t go against my conscience
The praise I get for doing a good job
The freedom to use my own judgement
The way my job provides for steady employment
15. Social service
The chance to do things for other people
16. Social status
The chance to be “somebody” in the community
17. Supervision-human relations
The way my boss handles his men
The competence of my supervisor in making decisions
The chance to do different things from time to time
20. Working conditions
The working conditions
* Items with an asterisk (*) correspond to ‘extrinsic’ factors, while the remaining factors
correspond to ‘intrinsic’ factors.
Table 2. Attributes of respondents.
Findings and Discussion
Below are presented first the descriptive statistical outputs to ease a better understanding of
the qualitative evidence. Findings suggest that the average job satisfaction score (2.50/5.00) of
architects lies between ‘fairly satisfied’ and ‘satisfied’ levels. The highest satisfaction factors
include co-workers, moral values, social service, achievement and independence, while the
lowest satisfaction factors include compensation, company policies and practices,
advancement, supervision-human relations, and security (Figure 1). The latter group falls into
the category of extrinsic satisfaction, which is more related to corporate dynamics than
When the authors compared the satisfaction levels according to career stages, the average
scores were found to be 2,33/5,00 in the early-career stage; 2,56/5,00 in the mid-career stage,
and 3,08/5,00 in late-career stage (Figure 1). While the authors have not completed the
inferential statistical analyses of the field data yet, descriptive findings signal that job
satisfaction of architects is likely to escalate when they move up in the career ladder. Even in
the late-career stage, however, the average score barely reaches to 3.00, which corresponds to
the ‘satisfied’ verbal level according to the Likert-scale used. Descriptive statistics suggest a
similar pattern for the sub-factors of job satisfaction; that is, average scores for all factors,
except for co- workers, tend to rise along with the successive career stages.
Figure 1: Satisfaction levels of architects according to different career stages*
* On a scale where 1 is ‘not satisfied,’ 2 is ‘fairly satisfied,’ 3 is ‘satisfied,’ 4 is ‘very
satisfied,’ and 5 is ‘extremely satisfied’
General job satisfaction scores of architects appear quite low, compared to those reported in
MSQ Manual (Weiss et al. 1967), where the average satisfaction scores are 78,97 (3,95/5,00)
for engineers; 83,53 (4,18/5,00) for field representatives; and 82,37 (4,12/5,00) for managers.
Low job satisfaction scores of designers contradict with previously reported international
results for other professions (see Mendes 2011, Wan and Leightley 2006, Chiumento 2007);
and Mitchell et al., 1990), and supports the results of Happiness Index (2005), where
architects were found the least happy professionals (only 2% were found ‘very happy’).
Likewise, the low satisfaction score is contradictory to those reported in local studies for
different professions, namely, 3,30/5,00 for civil servants (Budak 2006); 3,40/5,00 for private
company employees (Gökalp 2010); 3,70 and 3,75/5,00 for teachers (Düru 2015, Türkçapar
2012) 3,72,00 for guides (Krolu 2012); and 3,81/5,00 for academic staff (Atılgan 2017).
One notable exception is in Horman (2010), who found that the average job satisfaction of
white collars in the construction sector is 1,75/5,00 (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Comparison of satisfaction levels of different occupations.
Table 3 summarizes the results of content analysis, which show that compensation (65,2%) is
the most important satisfaction factor for architects, while the working conditions-effort
(43,9%); supervision-human relations (28,0%), company policies and practices (18,2%),
recognition (17,4%) and social status (16,7%) follow respectively. Moral values are not
perceived important at all in job satisfaction of architects according to respondents. These
findings are generally supportive of earlier research evidence on other professions (see
Yankelovich Partners 1998, Cardona 1996, Chiumento 2007). When compared with Figure 1,
qualitative results suggest that the standard MSQ instrument is unable to measure the factors
including working conditions-effort, affective climate of organization, personal development,
legal/institutional conditions, and work-life balance, although these factors appear to
influence the job satisfaction of designers.
According to descriptive statistics, job satisfaction of architects is likely to vary according to
career stages. In particular, priorities of late-career designers appear relatively different from
those of early- and mid-career designers. For example; social service, security, advancement,
supervision-technical, personal development and work-life balance factors are not perceived
important in the late-career stage, while early- and mid-career designers appear to place more
emphasis on these factors. On the contrary, independence is relatively less important in the
early-career stage compared to other factors, since the need for independence often comes
along with professional experience.
Finally, the importance of intrinsic factors like authority, responsibility and independence is
likely to rise, while the importance of extrinsic factors like supervision-human relations,
compensation, co-workers and working conditions decline, when the architects move up in
the career ladder. Put another way, the former group of factors (“referring to a positive feeling
toward the work itself”) contributes most to job satisfaction in relatively later stages, while the
latter group (“referring to factors associated with tangible job rewards”) helps to prevent
dissatisfaction in relatively the earlier stages (Mitchell et al 1990, Szymanski and Parker
Table 3. Results of content analysis.
Percentage of respondents in career stages (%)
1. social service
3. moral values
7. ability utilization
8. social status
9. company policies and pract.
10. supervision-human rel.
13. working conditions-phy.
21. working conditions-effort
22. affective climate of org.
23. personal development
24. legal/institutional cond.
25. work-life balance
Average job satisfaction of architectural designers is quite low when compared to those of
other occupations, in Turkey or elsewhere. The only sub-factor of MSQ that exceeds 3,00
satisfaction level is co-workers, while the compensation is the least satisfied factor at all.
Satisfaction levels of architects rise when they climb the career ladder. Most critical factors of
job satisfaction appear related to extrinsic factors, which are more related to corporate
dynamics than individual perceptions. Although architects are optimistic about the occupation
itself and they value their profession, they are not satisfied with the organizational climate of
their workplaces, policies and working conditions. Since the most important factors in job
satisfaction overlap with the least satisfied factors, which are company policies,
compensation, employers, security, advancement, recognition and working conditions, there
is a significant room for improvement in these fundamental factors primarily through
organization-level measures. In that way, workplace happiness can be enhanced and
organizations can benefit more from more happy, productive and creative employees.
Authors are grateful to Chamber of Architects – Istanbul Metropolitan Branch for their
contribution to deliver the questionnaire of the study to Istanbul-based designers.
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