Job satisfaction and ‘Power Distance’ in Malaysia

Malaysians are not happy with their work.

According to a survey conducted by JobStreet.com in 2012 on employee job satisfaction in Malaysia, 78% of the respondents claimed that they were unhappy with their current job.[1]

The reason that they were unhappy is surprising. The survey found that it was dissatisfaction with their scope of work that was the main reason for their unhappiness at work and not the remuneration they received. These employees noted that they felt that they had too much work or that their work was predictable and boring. Another important factor was also their poor relationship with their immediate supervisor.

The remaining 22% of the respondents who were happy at work revealed the following as the top three factors which influenced their happiness:

  • Firstly, enjoyable working experiences and working challenges (50%);
  • Secondly, bosses who appreciate and value their input (21%);
  • Thirdly, friendship with their colleagues (19%).

Two key questions need to be answered:

  • Why is there a high percentage of Malaysians working under unhappy conditions?
  • Why have the employers not done anything about it, let alone detect it?

One approach that could possibly provide the answers to these questions isHofstede’s Power Distance Index.

Globally, Malaysia has the highest Power Distance.

Hofstede defines Power Distance as:

“the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.”

In Hofstede’s formulation:

“Malaysians accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. Hierarchy in an organisation is seen as reflecting inherent inequalities, centralisation is popular, subordinates expect to be told what to do and the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat. Challenges to the leadership are not well-received.”

Hofstede’s findings may provide the answers to the two questions raised. Malaysian employees suffer in silence because they are afraid to voice out their dissatisfaction with work conditions; and Malaysian employers have no reason to enquire if their employers are satisfied at work as all seems well.

What do you think?

[1] A total of 1,145 employees, of which 62% were from the middle management level, took part in this JobStreet.com survey that was conducted in September 2012.

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This post first appeared in Pulse

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Author: Greg Lopez

I write about Malaysia, Singapore, Southeast Asia and Australia’s policy towards the ASEAN region. I am also lecturer with Murdoch University’s Executive Education Centre, fellow at its Asia Research Centre, and a a member of its Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability. I am also a visiting fellow at the Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University. Trained as an economist at the University of Malaya and the Australian National University, I have worked and researched the region extensively focusing on its economic and political reforms.

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