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Article

James M. Diefendorff, Megan E. Kenworthy, Faith C. Lee, and Linh K. Nguyen

The topic of work motivation permeates industrial/organizational psychology literature due to its established connections with attitudes, affect, well-being, behavior, and performance. Work motivation refers to the direction, intensity, and persistence of job-related behaviors. The concept of goals is essential to understanding motivation because goals represent desired end states toward which motivated effort and persistence are directed. Goal-based processes can be conceptualized in two main phases: goal setting and goal striving. Goal setting involves the selection of a goal after consideration of the feasibility (i.e., expectancy) and desirability (i.e., valence) of potential goals, and goal striving involves planning for and engaging in goal pursuit through the expenditure of effort and other resources. Goals are hierarchically arranged with more specific, shorter term goals toward the bottom of the hierarchy and more abstract, longer term goals toward the top of the hierarchy. Lower level goals represent the means by which higher level goals are attained. Multiple goals naturally exist in most real-world situations, so there is the need to prioritize and balance goal pursuit, with research outlining a number of factors that can aid in this prioritization, including goal expectancies, affect, and distance from goal attainment. Goals differ in a number of ways that have implications for performance and well-being. Two key ways are especially relevant for the workplace: (a) goals focused on approaching desirable outcomes versus goals focused on avoiding undesirable outcomes and (b) goals emanating from the self versus coming from the environment. The implication is that not all goal pursuit is equally beneficial for individuals and organizations.

Article

Anja H. Olafsen and Edward L. Deci

Self-determination theory (SDT) is a macro theory of human motivation that utilizes concepts essential for organizational psychology. Among the concepts are types and quality of motivation and basic (i.e., innate and universal) psychological needs. Further, the theory has specified social-environmental factors that affect both the satisfaction versus frustration of the basic psychological needs and the types of motivation. The social-environmental factors concern ways in which colleagues, employees’ immediate supervisors, and their higher-level managers create workplace conditions that are important determinants of the employees’ motivation, performance, and wellness. In addition, SDT highlights individual differences that also influence the degrees of basic need satisfaction and the types of motivation that the employees display. This theoretical framework has gained increasingly attention within the context of work the last 15 years, showcasing the importance of basic psychological needs and type of work motivation in explaining the relation from workplace factors to work behaviors, work attitudes and occupational health.

Article

Work motivation is defined as a set of energetic forces, internal or external to individuals, that help to initiate work-related behavior and determine its form, direction, intensity, and duration. It is one of the most studied and discussed topics in industrial and organizational psychology and extensively documented in meta-analyses and literature reviews. The content approaches to motivation show that (a) both mastery- and performance-approach goals are related positively to performance (achievement goal theory); (b) a promotion focus is positively associated with positive worker outcomes, while a prevention focus has less beneficial outcomes and relates negatively or not at all to such outcomes (regulatory focus theory); and (c) intrinsic motivation and basic need satisfaction are positively related to positive worker outcomes (self-determination theory). Context motivational theories indicate that (a) extrinsic incentives are associated with poorer well-being and creativity yet better employee performance (reinforcement theory) and (b) job characteristics explain up to 87% of the variance in worker outcomes (work design theories). Finally, the process approaches to motivation reveal that (a) expectancy theory is more useful in explaining choice behavior rather than energy investment or persistence; (b) setting specific difficult goals increases performance, even more so when feedback is also given, and that goal commitment is particularly important for goal achievement (goal setting theory); (c) goals allow people to more effectively process information, but the role of self-efficacy is less clear (self-regulation theories); and (d) perceived behavioral control is essential for intentions to behave (theory of planned behavior). Most of this research on work motivation has employed rather traditional research methods, such as cross-sectional self-reported studies that disconnect with work motivation theory focusing on dynamic processes over time. Therefore, to properly test motivational theory and advance the field of work motivation, future research should use longitudinal (experimental) field studies, person-centered approaches, and experience sampling method studies to allow for the evaluation of motivational and behavioral variability as a function of time, work events, and individual and situational factors. In terms of content, future research should go beyond the study of separate work motivation theories and integrate them to better understand the content, process, and context of work motivation. Such an integrated theory should include the work context in a more structured and explicit way, also taking into account that contextual variables may operate in isolation or interactively to affect motivation and that workers also influence the work context. As such, time and individual perspectives thereof should also be better incorporated in such integrated work motivation theories. Finally, there are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” for practitioners to enable them to practice evidence-based human resource management. First, following self-determination theory, one should bear in mind that not all motivation is good: Some types, especially those reflecting autonomous motivation (i.e., related to intrinsic motivation or experienced meaningfulness), generally lead to better outcomes than other, more controlled types (e.g., based on rewards or guilt induction). Second, goal setting theory is a useful perspective when developing performance management systems.

Article

David E. Guest

The quality of working life (QWL) is concerned with the conditions and practices in organizations that help to promote the well-being of the workforce. Interest in the subject grew during the second half of the 20th century, in the face of rising worker expectations and the challenges faced by organizations in attracting, motivating, and retaining staff in tight labor markets. Initial conceptual and empirical developments were provided by socio-technical systems theory and motivation theory. Much emphasis was placed on the design of jobs, often in autonomous work groups and in industrial democracy that provided workers with a role in the design of their work. However, a strength as well as a challenge for QWL advocacy is that it covers a wide range of topics relevant to worker well-being, such as fair pay, opportunities for development and growth, healthy working conditions, and work–life balance, as well as the core topic of work design to permit sufficient worker autonomy. In practice, the main focus of interventions addressed work design. For a few years, quality of working life became a “movement” that attracted the interest of industry and governments, providing opportunities for the wider application of the work of psychologists and other social scientists; however, changes in the economic circumstances and in labor markets led to a decline of interest. Nevertheless, relevant research on specific features of QWL continued to provide a strong evidence base. Entering the third decade of the 21st century, a rekindled interest in the topic has emerged among academics and policymakers, due to the advent of digitization, the growth of more precarious forms of employment, and increasing evidence about the adverse impact of poor quality work. Recent writing and research has offered a reconceptualized QWL designed to address the contemporary challenges of the workplace.