Deci and Ryan develop the self-determination theory, which is a theory of motivation. The theory has been used to address goals, the workplace and education. It has also be used to understand individual differences, personality development, performance and behaviour. In order for a person to be self-determined, meaning they are intrinsically motivated to behave at their best, they will have to be supported to feel competent, have autonomy and experience relatedness. These three needs will have to be met for an employee or person to be self-determined at work and personal life.
When it comes to the workplace, it is important that an organisation’s strategy supports and promotes self-determination for employees to be engaged in their workplace and be intrinsically motivated to complete goals and have healthy work behaviours. Intrinsically motivated employees will work effectively and efficiently because it supports their values, gives them meaning, makes them feel good and supports their overall vision. When an employee is in an environment that encourages and supports self-determination they will have the autonomy to make their own choices that supports their goals, relate well with others and feel understood, and believe they are competent to complete the task. Therefore leaders in an organisation will have to ensure that employees are given enough training and support to ensure that they can indeed do the work well, interpersonal relationships are healthy and supportive, and employees are trusted enough to make the right choices, rather than be told what to do. When the employee understands the organisation’s vision and goals, and it matches his/her goals, then the obvious choice would be to work effectively and efficiently to achieve the goals. However, enough trust and communication will have to be given to ensure that the vision and goals are communicated and that they can be achieved. For example, when employees understand the organisational strategy they will have increased motivation to support the strategy. When they don’t understand the strategy, their intrinsic motivation will be undermined and it will create uncertainty. To put this in another way, how will you make the choice to reach a goal if you don’t know what it is.
Moreover, research has found that when the job characteristics are understood and compliments the employees level of competence the employee will more likely to be self-determined. When leadership supports autonomy, the employee’s behaviour will be self-determined. Self-determined behaviour increases job satisfaction, altruism, organisational commitment, and low turnover intention.
In summary, and the take home message, is to create healthy workplaces that support autonomy, relatedness and competence for employees to achieve the organisational goals. If your employees are not working as effectively, consider self-determination theory to improve strategy, structure and outcomes.
jb Consulting and Psychology
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