February 19, 2017

Self-determination theory in organizations

In a new article Deci et al. (2017) give an overview of research within self-determination theory which is relevant for work and organizations. Among other things, they describe the important distinction between autonomous and controlled motivation (see more about this distinction) and the three basic psychological need (for competence, autonomy, and relatedness). The article reviews much research with as central theme that autonomous motivation (vs controlled motivation) is associated with both performance and wellness. Also, the show that the key to fostering autonomous motivation is to create workplaces which contribute to the satisfaction of the above mentioned basic needs. The picture below summarizes these points:

Model: self-determination theory in organizations

De zelfdeterminatietheorie in organisaties

The article describes the various types of research in which the relations between the variables in this model are examined, experimental (lab) research, correlational studies, intervention studies in organizations (experimental), and meta-analyses.

The role of money

The authors also extensively discuss the influence of money on motivation and employee performance. Of course, we usually expect a financial compensation for the work we do so it is justified to believe that money can play some kind of stimulating role. But research has shown that money, especially in the form of pay for performance, can also undermine motivation and performance.

Summarizing the research the authors write that pay for performance can positively affect the quantity of the work providing the tasks involved aren't too complex. Furthermore they write that the optimal route to high quality performance, especially with complex tasks, consists of (1) equitable pay, (2) the absence of salient forms of pay for performance, and (3) autonomy support.

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