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Workplace happiness: work engagement, career satisfaction, and subjective well-being

Baek-Kyoo Joo (School of Business Administration, Georgia Southwestern State University, Americus, Georgia, USA)
Insuk Lee (School of Business, Sogang University, Seoul, Korea)

Evidence-based HRM

ISSN: 2049-3983

Article publication date: 7 August 2017




Employee happiness or well-being is an emerging topic in management as well as in psychology. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effects of perceived organizational support (POS) and psychological capital (PsyCap) on happiness in employees’ work (i.e. work engagement), careers (i.e. career satisfaction), and lives (i.e. subjective well-being (SWB)).


Data were collected from 550 employees in a conglomerate in South Korea. For statistical analysis, we conducted confirmatory factor analysis, reliability and correlation analysis, and structural equation modeling analyses.


Employees were highly engaged in their work, satisfied with their careers, and felt a greater sense of well-being in their lives when they had higher POS and PsyCap. Work engagement fully mediated the relationship between PsyCap and career satisfaction. POS had an indirect effect on SWB through career satisfaction. With regards to the relationships among the three outcome variables, career satisfaction turned out to fully mediate the relationship between work engagement and SWB. In addition, the direct effect of PsyCap on SWB was also found to be significant.

Research limitations/implications

This study focused on knowledge workers in South Korean for-profit firms. The participants were mostly male, junior or middle managers. Using a cross-sectional survey method, this empirical study leaves room for speculation about the causality among the variables. As the results of exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses indicate, however, common method variance was found to not be of great concern.

Practical implications

The mission of human resources (HR) and organization development (OD) professionals in organizations is to improve individual and organizational performance and to enhance employees’ well-being. HR/OD professionals can enhance employees’ happiness not only in their work and careers but also in their lives by improving POS (e.g. growth opportunity, performance management, and compensation system) and developing PsyCap (e.g. staffing, training, and development, etc.).


This study linked the emerging constructs in positive psychology in general, in HR/OB in particular. To date, no study has empirically investigated the effects of PsyCap and POS on the three workplace happiness constructs: work engagement, career satisfaction, and SWB. This is the first study that found the relationship between POS and PsyCap. Last, while South Koreans are more collectivistic and less satisfied with their lives than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average, the respondents in this study, working for highly reputable firms, perceived high level of happiness in their work and career, and eventually in their lives. Thus, organizational features had a stronger effect on workplace happiness than national culture.



Joo, B.-K. and Lee, I. (2017), "Workplace happiness: work engagement, career satisfaction, and subjective well-being", Evidence-based HRM, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 206-221.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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