Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
Sociologists who focus on microlevel analyses are interested in how the economic system and the socialorganization of work affect people's attitudes and behavior. Symbolic interactionists, in particular. have examined the factor that contribute to job satisfaction. According to symbolic interactionists, work is an important source of self-identity for many people; it can help people feel positive about themselves. or it can cause them to feel alienated. Job satisfaction refers topeople's attitudes toward their work. based on (1) their ob responsibilities. (2) the organizational structure in which they work. and (3) their individual needs and
values (Hodson and Sulliva n. 2008). Studies have foundthat worker satisfaction is highest when employees have some degree of control over their work. when they are
part of the decision-making process. when they are not too closely supervised. and when they feel that they play an important part in the outcome (Kohn et al., 1990).
Persons in management and upervisory positions may feel more of a sense of ownership of the products or services produced by their organization. For example.
Deborah Kent, the first Africa n American woman tohead a vehicle assembly plant at the Ford Motor Company, feels such a sense of ownership that she sometimes
asks strangers on the street how they like their vehicle if it was produced in her plant I feel this sense of ownership. responsibility and pride about every Econoline, Villager. and Quest on the road. Particularly since I know we're the only manufacturing plant producing those vehicles, And if so ething's wrong. I want to know about it. (qtd. in Williams. 1995: l-7) Job satisfaction related to both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic factors pertain to the nature. of the work itself. whereas extrinsic factors include such things as vacation and holiday policies. parking privileges, on-site day-care centers. and other amenities that contribute to workers' overall perception that their employer cares about them. In one study. the sociologist Ruth Milkman (l997) found that autoworkerswere ambivalent about ~heir jobs. Although they hated the chronic stress and humiliation of factorywork. they liked the high pay and good benefits. Alienation occurs when workers' needs for selfidentity and meaning are .not met and when work is done strictly for material gain. not a sense of personal satisfaction, According t( Marx. workers are resistant to having very little power and no opportunities to make workplace decisions. This lack of control contributes to an ongoing struggle between workers and employers. Job segmentation. isolation of workers. andthe discouragement of any type of pro-worker organizations (such as unions) further contribute to feelings
of helplessness and frustration. Some occupations maybe more closely associated with high. levels of alienation than others. The Concept Quick Review summarizes the three major sociological perspectives on the economy and work in the United States .