New research suggests that the global and specific qualities of work motivations are equally important in understanding how motivations combine within employees into motivational profiles, and how these profiles are associated with employees’ subjective well-being at work. This study was published in Applied Psychology: An International Review.
Work motivation has been extensively studied within the field of organizational psychology. A well-articulated motivational theory, Self-Determination Theory (SDT) underscores the importance of engaging in work-related activities for self-determined or autonomous reasons (e.g., driven by pleasure, interest, and personal importance) relative to more extrinsically-driven, non-self-determined or controlled motives (e.g., involving guilt and pressure). Research so far has typically considered these work motivations in isolation even though employees can be driven by different motivational combinations or profiles. Additionally, identifying the most commonly occurring motivation profiles, and their implications, is likely to be helpful for managers and practitioners seeking to design intervention and prevention programs that better reflect the unique needs of each of these profiles of workers.
For this reason, my colleagues and I sought to identify different profiles of workers characterized by distinct configurations of work motivations while taking into account the global (representing employees’ global sense of volition and self-directedness) and specific (representing the unique aspects of the specific types of motivations) qualities of work motivations. We also investigated how having different motivational profiles are related to employees’ subjective well-being at work, namely work satisfaction, burnout, and work addiction.
For this purpose, 955 Hungarian working adults completed an anonymous online survey. We identified five distinct profiles of work motivations with latent profile analysis. First, a Poorly Motivated profile (44.4% of the employees) mainly characterized by amotivation. Second, a Conflicted profile (26.7% of the employees) mainly characterized by amotivation and personal importance toward work. Third, an Intrinsically Motivated profile (14.7% of the employees) mainly characterized by pleasure and interest towards work. Fourth, a Self-Determined profile (11.8% of the employees) mainly characterized by high global self-determination. Finally, a Driven profile (2.4% of the employees) characterized by a strong combination of self-determined and non-self-determined motivations. Our results show that both the global and the specific aspects seem to play an important role in forming employees’ motivational profiles.
With respect to subjective well-being at work, people who belonged to the Self-Determined group had the lowest levels of burnout and work addiction, highest levels of work satisfaction, followed by the members of the Intrinsically Motivated profile. The remaining three profiles appeared to be less desirable for different reasons. The Poorly Motivated profile appeared to be less desirable because of the higher levels of burnout and the lower levels of work satisfaction associated with it. Conversely, membership in the Conflicted profile seemed to be less desirable because of its higher levels of work addiction and burnout, and of its low levels of work satisfaction. This profile thus appears to carry risk in terms of subjective well-being at work. Finally, the Driven profile presented benefits in terms of high work satisfaction and low burnout, but these benefits were mitigated by the high levels of work addiction associated with this profile. Thus, contrasting the Self-Determined and Driven profiles, it appears that both seem to characterize workers who enjoy working. However, this comparison also suggests that there are limits to displaying a fully Driven approach to work characterized by both autonomous and controlled forms of motivation.
Limitations involve the use of self-reported data, the impossibility to draw causal inferences, and generalizability to other samples of employees. From a practical perspective, managers and organizations should aim to foster more self-determined or autonomous motivations in order to ensure that their employees have higher subjective well-being.
The study, “Toward an Improved Understanding of Work Motivation Profiles”, was authored by István Tóth-Király, Alexandre J.S. Morin, Beáta Bőthe, Adrien Rigó, and Gábor Orosz.