Employee Relations

How Honeymoons and Hangovers Relate to Job Satisfaction

A honeymoon is often thought of as a time of quintessential happiness. Whereas, the term hangover may conjure bad memories of overindulgence followed by an extreme “let down.” Surprisingly, in the organizational context, these two experiences can act as a metaphor to explain job satisfaction as it relates to new hires.

How Do Honeymoons and Hangovers Occur?

When examining job satisfaction in relation to new hires in an organization these terms are extremely relevant.
  • Honeymoon effect. Often a period of heightened satisfaction associated with a new position that occurs because the new hire has high expectations of the position. The employee may be trying to “put her best foot forward” with a positive attitude, or may be excited about new experiences, people, and challenges, making her content with the employment situation.
  • Hangover effect. After roughly six months, the employee has settled into the position, and everything is no longer new and exciting. The extreme satisfaction experienced during the honeymoon period begins to dissipate and the employee may reach a more “stable” satisfaction level.
Unfortunately, individuals who experience extreme satisfaction during the honeymoon period are often those who will experience a significant decrease in satisfaction during their hangover period – “the stronger the honeymoon, the stronger the hangover.”

Practical Implications

Because satisfaction can play an important role in motivation, behavior and turnover intentions, organizations should make all employees aware of this phenomenon. Organizations can:
  • Identify “risky periods” when employees are most susceptible to experiencing the hangover effect and work to mitigate this effect. Offering employees new opportunities or providing additional support and guidance can accomplish this.
  • Educate new hires on the possibility of experiencing these effects during the on-boarding process. Understanding these feelings are typical can help to lessen the extreme “let down” employees may experience, and give an accurate preview of the organization and position.
  • Educate supervisors to allow them to be aware of times when employees may experience heightened or decreased satisfaction. This will allow them to make extra effort to engage and encourage employees during these times.
Overall, organizations should not be concerned if the honeymoon-hangover satisfaction pattern is displayed in the organization. Simply understanding and acknowledging this phenomenon will be useful in overcoming any challenges that may arise.

Elizabeth Allen


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Boswell, W., Shipp, A., Payne, S. & Culbertson, S. (2009). Changes in newcomer job satisfaction over time: Examining the pattern of honeymoons and hangovers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94 (4). 844-858.