May 20, 2014

How work can be made more needs-supportive

Satisfaction of the three psychological basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness leads to several types of advantages for both individuals and organizations. When people experience that their basic needs are satisfied they will feel and function better. In work, it is a given that individual goals and needs of employees are not the only things which are important. Within organizations there will be goals, systems and rules which employees cannot ignore. This implies that everybody will need to meet certain expectations and to conform to certain rules and norms. It will also be inevitable that we will frequently have to do tasks which we do not find very interesting.

The interests of organizations and individuals generally do not have conflict with each other. Often, precisely the circumstances and ways of working which will benefit individuals will also enhance the very things which are beneficial for organizations such as people's creativity, productivity, cooperativeness, and commitment (Gagné & Deci, 2014; Baard, Deci & Ryan, 2004; Deci et al., 2001; Hardré & Reeve, 2009). Recent research (Ryan, et al., 2010) suggests that many work environments and jobs are structured in ways that frustrate the satisfaction of the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This leads to the situation that people not only feel to well in their work; they also do perform to well and feel less committed to the organization and its goals

By deliberately focusing on respecting and supporting employees' basic needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness within organizations we can create the conditions in which people can do work that intrinsically motivated them and in which people can internalize the values, norms, and goals of the organizations. The figure below summarizes this mechanism.


Fortunately, research has revealed a lot about how basic needs can be supported. The table below gives examples of how this can be done.


Question: what ideas does this provoke in you? Are some of the things mentioned here useful to you?

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