Published: 03 May 2017

A longitudinal study of the impact of occupational mobility on job satisfaction trajectory

Recent publication by Dr Ying Zhou and Dr Mark Williams of the Department of People and Organisations at Surrey Business School 

Zhou, Y., Wu, C. H., Zou, M., & Williams, M. 2017. A longitudinal study of the impact of occupational mobility on job satisfaction trajectory: Individual differences in neuroticism’. In Guclu Atinc (Ed.), Proceedings of the Seventy-seventh Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management. Online ISSN: 2151-6561 (nominated for the Careers Division’s “Overall Best Paper” award).



Previous research on job change has identified a common pattern of job satisfaction trajectory during the turnover process. Individuals often experience a sharp increase in job satisfaction upon initial entry into the new job which gradually returns to baseline levels over time. This study examines how this ‘honeymoon-hanger’ pattern is affected by the nature of the job change and the individual’s personality.  Drawing on the longitudinal data provided by the British Household Panel Survey which followed approximately 10,000 individuals annually for eighteen years, this study shows that only those who successfully move up the occupational ladder experience significant ‘honeymoon’ effects. By contrast, individuals who make lateral or downward career transitions experience no significant honeymoon effect but a lasting scar on their job satisfaction for several years after the transition. However, the pattern varies depending on the individual’s level of neuroticism. Compared to those with calm dispositions, neurotics react more strongly to both upward and downward occupational mobility, with the job satisfaction gap between the two groups growing wider over time. These findings highlight the importance of taking into account both situational and dispositional factors for understanding individuals’ reactions to job change.  


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