Self-determination theory and work motivation

We present self-determination theory, review the research on which it was based, compare it to other work motivation theories, lay out a research agenda, and discuss its relevance for organizational behavior and management

Marylène Gagné


Scholarcy highlights

  • Building on previous research expectancy–valence theory of motivation, previous research proposed a model of intrinsic and extrinsic work motivation
  • We argue, based largely on laboratory experiments and field research in other domains, that work climates that promote satisfaction of the three basic psychological needs will enhance employees’ intrinsic motivation and promote full internalization of extrinsic motivation and that this will in turn yield the important work outcomes of persistence and maintained behavior change; effective performance, on tasks requiring creativity, cognitive flexibility, and conceptual understanding; job satisfaction; positive work-related attitudes; organizational citizenship behaviors; and psychological adjustment and well-being
  • It is well established that use of salient extrinsic rewards to motivate work behavior can be deleterious to intrinsic motivation and can have negative consequences for psychological adjustment, performance on interesting and personally important activities, and citizenship behavior
  • Self-determination theory has detailed the processes through which extrinsic motivation can become autonomous, and research suggests that intrinsic motivation and autonomous extrinsic motivation are both related to performance, satisfaction, trust, and well-being in the workplace
  • When the interaction of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was first identified, cognitive evaluation theory provided an explanation for the phenomenon
  • Because much of the support for self-determination theory has come from laboratory experiments and field studies in domains other than work organizations, we outlined a research agenda that will be important for supporting the use of SDT as a theory of work motivation

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