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The organizational environment is purported to have a profound impact on how employees behave at work. In particular, the extent to which the work environment can foster autonomy in employees has been shown to predict several positive outcomes for employees and organizations. This research explores the associations between employees’ experiences of autonomy at work and organizational deviance. We also investigate the mechanisms underlying this association and the possible role of identified motivation as a mediator of this relation. Three studies conducted in a variety of settings, countries, populations and assessment methods showed that employees who experience more autonomy at work tend to engage in lower levels of organizational deviance. Two studies also showed that this relation was mediated by identified motivation. Thus, employees’ experiences of autonomy at work seemed to foster higher levels of identified motivation towards work, which in turn predicted lower levels of organizational deviance. The present results may help guide managerial training and promote organizational cultures that are respectful of employee autonomy, potentially reducing the costs associated with organizational deviance.
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International Journal of Business and Management; Vol. 13, No. 5; 2018
ISSN 1833-3850 E-ISSN 1833-8119
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
61
Promoting Autonomy to Reduce Employee Deviance: The Mediating
Role of Identified Motivation
Julien S. Bureau1, Geneviève A. Mageau2, Alexandre J. S. Morin3, Marylène Gagné4, Jacques Forest5,
Konstantinos Papachristopoulos6, Ashrah Lucas2, Anaïs Thibault Landry5 & Chloé Parenteau5
1 Department of Educational Fundamentals and Practices, Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada
2 Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada
3 Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
4 Management and Organisations, UWA Business School, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia
5 School of Management, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Canada
6 Hellenic Army Academy, Vari, Greece
Correspondence: Julien S. Bureau, Department of Educational Fundamentals and Practices, Université Laval,
Bureau 950, Pavillon des Sciences de l’éducation, 2320 rue des Bibliothèques, Quebec City, Quebec, G1V 0A6,
Canada. E-mail: julien.bureau@fse.ulaval.ca
Received: February 12, 2018 Accepted: March 12, 2018 Online Published: April 18, 2018
doi:10.5539/ijbm.v13n5p61 URL: https://doi.org/10.5539/ijbm.v13n5p61
Abstract
The organizational environment is purported to have a profound impact on how employees behave at work. In
particular, the extent to which the work environment can foster autonomy in employees has been shown to
predict several positive outcomes for employees and organizations. This research explores the associations
between employees’ experiences of autonomy at work and organizational deviance. We also investigate the
mechanisms underlying this association and the possible role of identified motivation as a mediator of this
relation. Three studies conducted in a variety of settings, countries, populations and assessment methods showed
that employees who experience more autonomy at work tend to engage in lower levels of organizational
deviance. Two studies also showed that this relation was mediated by identified motivation. Thus, employees’
experiences of autonomy at work seemed to foster higher levels of identified motivation towards work, which in
turn predicted lower levels of organizational deviance. The present results may help guide managerial training
and promote organizational cultures that are respectful of employee autonomy, potentially reducing the costs
associated with organizational deviance.
Keywords: employee autonomy, counterproductive work behaviors, work motivation, organizational deviance
1. Introduction
Organizational deviance, also labelled as counterproductive work behaviors directed at the organizations
(CWB-O; Bennett & Robinson, 2000), is extremely harmful to organizations, costing employers billions of
dollars annually worldwide (Ones, 2002). Employee CWB-O consists of volitional acts that harm or have the
potential to harm organizations (Spector & Fox, 2005). It encompasses different types of deviant behaviors such
as theft, production deviance (e.g., intentionally working slowly, taking long breaks, cyber loafing), and
withdrawal (e.g., absence, lateness). Past research suggests that work contexts, and specifically the extent to
which employees experience autonomy at work (Fox, Spector, & Miles, 2001), may influence employees’
propensity to engage in CWB-O. One possible explanation for this finding is found within Self-Determination
Theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci, 2017), which suggests that employees who experience autonomy in their workplace
are more likely to have internalized their organization’s goals as their own, thus making CWB-O
counterproductive for both the company and themselves. However, conflicting findings linking autonomy to
higher levels of CWB-O have also emerged (Vardi & Weitz, 2003). In addition, previous research has only
examined the autonomy‒CWB-O relation using self-reported measures of deviant behaviors and has yet to
explore the mechanisms underlying this relation. The present study thus investigated the relation between
experiences of autonomy at work and CWB-O using a mix of self-reported and coded measures of deviant
behaviors, and examined identified motivation at work (i.e., engaging in work because it is congruent with one’s
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goals and values) as a possible mediator of this relation.
1.1 Determinants of CWB-O
Previous research points to many possible reasons as to why employees engage in CWB-O. Most research has
focused on employees’ personality traits (Berry, Ones, & Sackett, 2007) as possible predictors of deviant work
behaviors. In contrast to research on stable personality factors, recent work has looked at contextual factors that
may impact CWB-O, such as organizational justice and support, as well as managerial leadership (Jacobs,
Belschak, & Hartog, 2014; Kessler, Bruursema, Rodopman, & Spector, 2013). Identifying contextual
antecedents is crucial as they are generally under the control of organizations and can be used as levers against
CWB-O. Available evidence suggests that organizations may also influence CWB-O by creating working
environments that foster employees’ experiences of autonomy (Fox et al., 2001; Roberts, Harms, Caspi, &
Moffitt, 2007). Given the strong benefits associated with autonomy at work (Hardré & Reeve, 2009), a closer
look at its effect on CWB-O was warranted.
1.2 Experiences of Autonomy at Work
Employee autonomy has been extensively studied within SDT (Ryan & Deci, 2000, 2017) . This theoretical
framework posits that individuals thrive when their social environment supports the satisfaction of their basic
psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Competence and relatedness refer to the need to
feel that one has an impact on one’s environment (competence) and shares significant relations with the people
around him/her (relatedness). In contrast, the need for autonomy is defined as the need to feel a sense of agency
and ownership of one’s behaviors. For instance, employees who can choose the best way to perform a certain
task experience more autonomy than those compelled to do their task in a specified way regardless of efficiency.
Employees who experience higher levels of autonomy tend to display higher levels of well-being, engagement,
motivation, and productivity at work (Baard, Deci, & Ryan, 2004; Hardré & Reeve, 2009; Moreau & Mageau,
2012).
In relation to CWB-O, two previous studies have hinted at the potential importance of autonomy in its prediction.
The first study was conducted with a sample of students who also occupied external jobs. Results showed that
when these employees perceived that they had some level of choice regarding their own work schedule, they
tended to engage in less CWB-O (Fox et al., 2001). The second study investigated autonomy at work in members
of the general population using a longitudinal design (Roberts et al., 2007). In this study, autonomy was
measured by asking employees if they had a say in setting their own work hours and if they had a boss. Results
showed that employees presenting higher levels of autonomy engaged in significantly less CWB-O.
Other studies have also documented a negative relation between managerial behaviors known to nurture
employees’ autonomy (Wang & Gagné, 2013) and CWB-O, but without directly measuring employees’
experiences of autonomy. Specifically, these studies have shown that transformational leadership (Kessler et al.,
2013) and supervisor support (Jacobs et al., 2014) are negatively linked to CWB-O. In contrast, one study
observed an unexpected positive relation between autonomy and CWB-O in an Israeli sample (Vardi & Weitz,
2003). In this study, autonomy was assessed as the degree of choice and input in work activities, schedules, and
evaluation. This last finding casts doubts on the exact nature of the relation between autonomy and CWB-O,
suggesting that autonomy could also provide opportunities for engaging in more frequent CWB-O. Taken
together, these studies suggest that employees’ experiences of autonomy may influence their propensity to
engage in CWB-O, though the direction of this relation is uncertain, warranting further investigation.
H1. Experiences of autonomy at work will be negatively related to CWB-O.
To our knowledge, the explanatory mechanisms of the autonomy-CWB-O relationship have never been explored.
However, SDT research has repeatedly shown that experiences of autonomy influence people’s behaviors
through their impact on motivation (Moreau & Mageau, 2013). In the work domain, autonomy-supportive
practices contribute to high-quality work motivation (Gagné & Bhave, 2011), which in turn predicts positive
outcomes for employees (Gagné et al., 2014). Drawing on this body of research, we postulated that work
motivation may mediate the hypothesized relation between autonomy and CWB-O.
1.3 Work Motivation
Within SDT, work motivation has been investigated by contrasting different types of motivation, which have
been classified as low or high in self-determination (Gagné et al., 2010). Non-self-determined or controlled types
of motivation are external and introjected regulations (Ryan & Deci, 2000). External regulation refers to
situations where the behavior is done solely for purposes external to the behavior itself. These purposes may
include external incentives such as money, gratitude, or awards. With introjected regulation, external incentives
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have been internalized but the reasons underlying the behavior have not been endorsed by the individual. For
example, introjected regulation occurs when behavior is driven by guilt, compulsion, or in order to maintain
self-worth. In contrast, more autonomous types of motivation are identified regulation and intrinsic motivation
(Ryan & Deci, 2000). Identified regulation occurs when the behavior has been internalized as having value in its
own right and as being consistent with one’s own goals. Finally, intrinsic motivation refers to situations where
the object of the behavior is motivating in itself, usually because it provides enjoyment.
Past research has shown that more autonomous forms of motivation tend to be associated with adaptive
behaviors and greater levels of well-being across life domains including work, education, sport, health, and
exercise (Ryan & Deci, 2000), while controlled forms of motivation tend to predict poorer outcomes in these
domains. Recently, research also showed differential relations across more specific motivation types and a
variety of outcomes. For example, one study revealed that intrinsic motivation was the only type of motivation
that was consistently positively associated with academic achievement over a one-year period, controlling for
baseline achievement (Taylor et al., 2014). Koestner et al. (1996) showed that identified motivation towards
politics was the only type of motivation that predicted actual voting behavior. Similarly, when students are
motivated through identified regulation, they tend to perform better in school and to be more satisfied with their
levels of academic performance (Burton, Lydon, D’Alessandro, & Koestner, 2006). At work, employees with
higher levels of identified motivation (but also higher levels of intrinsic motivation) tend to show higher levels of
optimism, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and well-being (Gagné et al., 2010).
Taken together, these results suggest that identified motivation may be particularly important across multiple life
contexts. In the work context, identified motivation should be a crucial predictor of engagement in work-related
tasks (Gagné & Deci, 2005) because not all work tasks are enjoyable, yet they need to be done. It is also likely
that identified motivation is a predictor of CWB-O specifically. When motivation for work is identified,
employees have internalized the organizational goals as their own such that their organization’s interests are
more intertwined with their own. They are thus more likely to support these goals and abide by the
organization’s standards. This means that they would consider CWB-O, such as taking long breaks or leaving
early, as being counterproductive not only for the organizations goal attainment but for their own goal
attainment as well. This should make them less likely to engage in such behavior. In contrast, intrinsic
motivation should not play a similar role in preventing CWB-O because, when facing difficult or uninteresting
challenges, employees whose work motivation is solely intrinsic may actually consider CWB-O as a way of
avoiding meeting such challenges. Employees whose motivation for work is more identified would instead be
more likely to value these challenges, making CWB-O less tempting.
Given that autonomy is known to increase levels of identified motivation by facilitating the internalization of
external values (Deci, Eghrari, Patrick, & Leone, 1994), and that identified motivation may reduce CWB-O by
making these behaviors more at odds with the person’s goals, we proposed that identified motivation may
mediate the hypothesized link between employee autonomy and CWB-O.
H2. The relation between experiences of autonomy and CWB-O will be mediated by identified motivation.
1.4 The Present Research
The above hypotheses were tested using self-reported data from employees from two countries, Canada and
Greece, as well as a mix of self-reported and behavioral data collected in a laboratory setting. The first and
second studies relied on structural equation modeling (SEM) to test the relation between experiences of
autonomy in the workplace and CWB-O among employees. The second study also verified the possible
mediating role of identified motivation in the hypothesized relation between experiences of autonomy and
CWB-O. Finally, the third and final study tested whether the relations identified in the first two studies could be
replicated using an objective behavioral measure of deviance as an indicator of CWB-O, namely cheating in a
task for one’s own personal benefit. Bringing these three different studies together allowed us to test the
robustness of the proposed associations among autonomy, identified motivation, and CWB-O across different
samples, methodologies and measures.
2. Study 1
2.1 Participants and Procedure
Participants were 144 employees (51.8% female) of an international food company, were aged between 25 and
63 years (M = 39.32 years; SD = 8.23 years), and had worked for this company for an average of 8.69 years (SD
= 7.15 years). Employees occupied a variety of positions: (office support, 5.5%; technician, 12.2%; professional,
40.9%; senior professional, 26.8%; director, 10.4%; executive committee member, 4.3%). Recruitment took
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place at the company’s Canadian head office. Researchers first sent an invitation email to all employees.
Interested employees were provided with a link to an online questionnaire. To increase participation, researchers
also visited the company’s offices with laptops to provide opportunities to an even greater number of employees
to complete the online questionnaire. Most of the sample (79.6%) completed the questionnaire in French, while
the remaining participants completed the questionnaire in English. All employees who participated did so
following an informed consent procedure. All scales were translated to French using a standard back-translation
procedure (van de Vijver & Hambleton, 1996).
2.2 Measures
2.2.1 Experiences of Autonomy in the Workplace
Participants’ experiences of autonomy in the workplace were assessed using the three positively worded items
from the need for autonomy subscale of the Work-related Basic Need Satisfaction Scale (Van den Broeck,
Vansteenkiste, De Witte, Soenens, & Lens, 2010; sample item: I feel free to do my job the way I think it could
best be done’’). Employees were asked to rate their level of agreement with each item on a Likert scale ranging
from Does not agree at all (1) to Strongly agree (7), while thinking about their working environment in general.
This scale had satisfactory scale score reliability (α = .75).
2.2.2 Employee CWB-O
Participants’ CWB directed at the organization were assessed using a 6-item version of the organizational
deviance scale (Bennett & Robinson, 2000; sample item: During the last year, I intentionally worked slower than
I could have worked’’). These items were selected from the original 12-item scale because they had the highest
loadings on the organizational deviance factor (loadings between .61 and .68; Bennett & Robinson, 2000), and
also because their prevalence over a one-year period was the highest in the validation study (rates between 54.1%
and 78.5%; Bennett & Robinson, 2000, Study 2). As it is the case for the original scale, the items were answered
on a frequency scale ranging from Never (1) to Every day (7). The original scale showed satisfactory scale score
reliability as well as good convergent validity with other scales of property and production deviance and with
constructs of physical and psychological withdrawal at work (Bennett & Robinson, 2000). The scale score
reliability of the scale in this study was low but acceptable (α = .67). Furthermore, because this study relies on
fully latent SEM models, the relations between the latent CWB-O construct and the other constructs are
estimated while controlling for the measurement error related to this low level of scale score reliability.
The organizational deviance scale provides valuable information on employee CWB-O. In the present sample,
48 employees (34%) had never engaged in any of the deviant behaviors listed while 30 employees (21%)
engaged in at least one deviant behavior more than once or twice per year. Furthermore, very few employees (N
= 5; 3.5%) reported having engaged in one or more deviant behaviors at least on a monthly basis.
2.3 Results and Discussion
Means, standard deviations and correlations for all variables for all studies are presented in Table 1. The relation
between employees’ experiences of autonomy at work and CWB-O was examined through SEM using the robust
maximum likelihood (MLR) estimator implemented in Mplus 7.2 (Muthén & Muthén, 2014), which is robust to
non-normality. Both experiences of autonomy and CWB-O were specified as latent variables that captured the
common variance across their respective items. The fit of the model was evaluated using the Chi-square statistic
(χ²), the Comparative Fit Index (CFI), the Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI), and the Root Mean Square Error of
Approximation (RMSEA). Values greater than .90 and .95 for both the CFI and TLI respectively indicate
adequate and excellent fit to the data, while values smaller than .06 and .08 for the RMSEA respectively suggest
an excellent and acceptable model fit (Hu & Bentler, 1999).
According to these guidelines, the fit of the present model was adequate, χ² (26) = 39.57, p = .04; CFI = .93; TLI
= .90; RMSEA = .06. The results showed that autonomy was significantly and negatively related to employee
CWB-O, β = -.22, p = .03. Thus, in line with past research (Fox et al., 2001), Study 1 supports the idea that
employees’ experiences of autonomy at work is related to their CWB-O. The more employees experienced
autonomy in their workplace, the less they tended to engage in CWB-O.
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Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations and Correlations across Variables for all Studies
Variable Study 1 Study 2 Study 3
M SD r M SD r M SD r
(2) (2) (3) (2) (3)
Experiences of autonomy 4.53 0.83 -.22 3.78 0.99 -.35 .77 5.06 1.47 -.19 .33
CWB-O/Deviant behavior (2) 1.50 0.58 - 1.87 0.66 - -.28 0.14 0.86 - -.28
Identified motivation (3) - 5.03 1.27 - - 3.75 1.46 - -
Note. Theoretical range for all scales is from 1 to 7, except for Study 3 “Deviant Behavior”, which is an observed absolute. Correlations
between latent variables are presented for Studies 1 and 2. Items assessing autonomy experiences vary across studies. All correlations are
significant at the p < .05 level.
3. Study 2
3.1 Participants and Procedure
Participants were 130 employees (61.5% female) working in different public and private Greek companies. Most
participants’ age fell in the 25-35 years category (60.0%), while others were in the 36-45 (26.2%) or 46-55
(13.8%) years category. Employees had worked for their company for an average of 7.05 years (SD = 7.46 years)
and occupied a variety of positions: (clerk, 32.3%; technician, 4.6%; professional, 46.2%; manager, 10.0%;
director, 6.9%). Questionnaires were distributed electronically to a list of organizations in Greece and then
relayed to employees within these organizations. Interested employees were directed toward the online
questionnaire and were asked, following informed consent, to complete the scales described below. However, the
electronic system used for data collection purposes did not allow us to identify the organizational membership of
participating employees for purposes of confidentiality. All scales were translated to Greek using a standard
back-translation procedure (van de Vijver & Hambleton, 1996).
3.2 Measures
3.2.1 Experiences of Autonomy in the Workplace
In this study, experiences of autonomy in the workplace were assessed using three items taken from the same
original scale as in Study 1, selected based on their factor loadings in Van den Broeck’s (2010) study. Although
this scale’s items had the highest loadings in the original validation study, its scale score reliability was low in
the present study (alpha = .53). This reinforces the need for this study to rely on a fully latent SEM model that
corrects for measurement error when estimating relations among key constructs (Bollen, 1989).
3.2.2 Employee CWB-O
Participants’ CWB-O was assessed using the translated version of the organizational deviance scale used in
Study 1, which resulted in an acceptable estimate of scale score reliability (α = .76).
3.2.3 Identified Motivation
Participants’ identified motivation at work was assessed using the Greek adaptation of the 3-item identified
motivation subscale from the Motivation at Work Scale (Gagné et al., 2010; sample item: I put efforts in my job
because this job fits my personal values; α = .65). This subscale, validated in English and French, has shown
satisfactory scale score reliability in the validation paper (from .81 to .89) and has been related to job satisfaction
and well-being (Gagné et al., 2010).
3.3. Results and Discussion
The a priori mediation model was tested via SEM using the MLR estimator available in the Mplus 7.2 (Muthén
& Muthén, 2014). Measurement errors associated with negatively worded items of experiences of autonomy
were allowed to covary to account for this wording artefact (Marsh et al., 2013; Marsh, Scalas, & Nagengast,
2010). This model adequately fitted the data, χ² (51) = 66.83, p = .07; CFI = .94; TLI = .92; RMSEA = .05.
Results revealed that experiences of autonomy at work were strongly and positively related to identified
motivation (β = .77, p < .001), which was in turn significantly and negatively related to CWB-O (β = -.30, p
= .003; see Figure 1). In addition, inspection of the indirect effect of autonomy on CWB-O as mediated through
identified motivation, showed that autonomy indeed indirectly predicted employee’s levels of CWB-O (βindirect =
-.23, p < .05).
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ijbm.ccsenet.org International Journal of Business and Management Vol. 13, No. 5; 2018
67
than they actually did. This was possible because the original test sheet on which the participants completed the
task was supposedly thrown away without a way to link it to its owner. However, following Shu, Gino, and
Bazerman’s (2011) procedure, a specific number in one of the matrices (not included in the solution of that
matrix) differed for every participant and corresponded to participants’ identification number. These specific
numbers were also written, unknown to participants, on their answer sheet where they indicated how many
matrices they claimed to have solved. Participants’ actual performance could thus be compared with their own
report of solved matrices. Deviant behavior was defined as participants saying that they had solved more
matrices than they really had (presumably to get more money or to self-enhance). An index was created by
subtracting the number of completed matrices as coded from the test sheet from the number of matrices
participants claimed they had solved. Scores above the zero value on this index indicated deviant behaviors.
4.2.2 Experiences of Autonomy
We measured participants’ experience of autonomy in the task with a 3-item scale adapted from other autonomy
need satisfaction scales (sample item: “I had the opportunity to make choices”; Gagné, 2003; Sheldon & Gunz,
2009). Items were selected based on their relevance to the laboratory context. The scale score reliability of this
scale was low but acceptable (α = .68).
4.2.3 Identified Motivation
Identified motivation was measured using the 3-item identified motivation subscale from the Situational
Motivation Scale (SIMS; Guay, Vallerand, & Blanchard, 2000). The scale score reliability of this scale was
satisfactory (α = .82).
4.3 Results and Discussion
Given that the behavioral measure of deviant behavior was an observed variable and because the sample size was
smaller than for the other studies, we tested the full mediation model with a path analysis approach, using the
MLR estimator available in Mplus 7.2. (Muthén & Muthén, 2014). The obtained model showed adequate fit to
the data, χ² (1) = 1.55, p = .74; CFI = .98; TLI = .93; RMSEA = .07. Results showed that autonomy was
positively related to identified motivation (β = .33, p < .001) and that, in turn, identified motivation was
negatively related to deviant behavior (β = -.25, p = .02). In addition, the indirect effect of experiences of
autonomy on deviant behavior, through identified motivation, was again shown to be significant (βindirect = -.06, p
= .04).
The present results support the hypothesis that experiencing autonomy results in less deviant behavior. People
who felt autonomous in an experimental situation engaged in the proposed task with higher levels of identified
motivation. In turn, people who were motivated in a more identified way were less likely to engage in behaviors
that violated the task rules.
5. General Discussion
5.1 Summary
Three studies consistently showed a negative link between experiences of autonomy and deviant behavior,
supporting H1. Employees who experienced more autonomy tended to engage in lower levels of CWB-O.
Likewise, students who experienced more autonomy during an experimental task were less likely to engage in
deviant behavior. Two of these studies further showed that this relation is fully mediated by identified motivation,
supporting H2. It thus seems that work environments that foster employees’ experiences of autonomy may
facilitate higher levels of identified motivation at work, which in turn predict lower levels of CWB-O. These
results appear to be robust to variations in culture (Canada versus Greece), in the measurement of autonomy
(each study used a distinct set of items), to type of deviant behavior assessments (questionnaires versus observed
behaviors), and to type of participants (employees versus students), suggesting that autonomy and identified
motivation may be consistent predictors of CWB-O.
5.2 Implications for SDT
Taken together, these results have implications for Self-Determination Theory and for research on organizational
deviance. First, by showing that experiences of autonomy are negatively associated with CWB-O, this research
provides further support to the proposition that autonomy is associated with optimal employee functioning
(Gagné & Bhave, 2011). Given the fact that autonomy support has been shown to predict performance and
productivity (Baard et al., 2004) in addition to being linked to work satisfaction and greater mental health
(Moreau & Mageau, 2012), it seems likely that promoting employees’ experiences of autonomy is indeed an
essential part of effective management.
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68
5.3 Implications for HRM
The current results are particularly important for human resource management given that managers are more
likely to make attempts at compelling employees to be obedient and diligent rather than granting them autonomy
(Hamel & Breen, 2013). In the specific context of CWB-O, past research has shown that some managers try to
reduce employees’ CWB-O by behaving in more controlling ways (i.e., abusive supervision; Lian, Ferris,
Morrison, & Brown, 2014). However, unlike objects that need to be programmed or fixed, human optimal
functioning is best fostered using autonomy support instead of control (Moreau & Mageau, 2013). Our research
suggests that granting autonomy may be a potential managerial strategy for reducing employee CWB-O.
Furthermore, if CWB-O elicits attempts at managerial control (Lian et al., 2014), and control in turn induces
more CWB-O (Lian, Lance Ferris, & Brown, 2012), a downward spiral may occur. Managers engaging in more
autonomy-supportive practices could instead prevent this unwanted outcome. Future research should investigate
whether interventions aimed at increasing managerial support for autonomy could be effective to guide
employees away from CWB-O in situations where these behaviors are already ingrained in the workplace.
Results also showed that autonomy may weaken the propensity to engage in CWB-O because people are more
likely to internalize reasons for doing their work. As previous studies have shown, when employees have high
identified work motivation, they are more optimistic in, committed to, and satisfied with their work (Gagné et al.,
2010). They also experience greater well-being and show better performance in their work (Burton et al., 2006;
Gagné et al., 2010). Promoting such high quality motivation thus seems a highly desirable outcome, and again
this is done through fostering experiences of autonomy.
5.4 Limitations and Future Research
Despite shedding light on important psychological processes related to engagement in CWB-O, the present
studies have limitations worth mentioning. First, all studies were cross-sectional in nature, meaning that no
direction of effects can be clearly inferred. It is indeed possible that people who engage in less CWB-O are
subsequently granted more autonomy in the workplace (Lian et al., 2014). Second, only self-reported
experiences of autonomy were assessed, which provides a possibly inaccurate or biased assessment of
affordances of autonomy in the workplace, usually coming from structures, job design, and managerial behaviors.
In addition, sample sizes across the three studies were rather small, which may limit the stability of the findings.
Replication of results with bigger and more diverse samples is needed. Abridged versions of the need for
autonomy subscale of the Work-related Basic Need Satisfaction Scale (Van den Broeck et al., 2010) were also
used in Study 1 and 2, and these varied across the two studies, which limits the external validity of the findings.
Third, although items from validated scales were used, four scales did not reach an alpha level of .70. However,
these scales had few items and Cronbach’s alphas are greatly reduced when the number of items is small. When
alphas were calculated based on the assumption that they had 8 items using Streiner’s (2003) prophecy formula,
all were found to be fully satisfactory (≥ .70). Furthermore, because Studies 1 and 2 relied on fully latent SEM
models corrected for measurement errors, these lower levels of reliability are unlikely to have played a role in
the estimated relations. Finally, Study 3 targeted university students and not actual employees and the
experimental task used to code deviant behavior was not work-related. This makes the comparison across studies
more difficult. Yet, the fact that the similar negative relations between autonomy and deviant behaviors were
observed across all studies despite these methodological and psychometric variations suggests that this
association may be particularly robust. It also suggests that autonomy and identified motivation may be key
predictors for deviance at large, and not only CWB-O.
Furthermore, as previously mentioned, one study (Vardi & Weitz, 2003) has found that autonomy was positively
associated with CWB-O. While the present findings, as well as past research, have shown otherwise, we have yet
to understand if there are specific situations in which autonomy could predict more or less deviant behavior. Fox
and Spector (2006) suggested that employees with greater autonomy in their work might occupy hierarchically
superior positions and have greater access to critical organizational resources. Power, as an employee or leader
characteristic, has been shown to predict CWB-O and even corruption (Fox & Spector, 1999). In the Vardi and
Weitz (2003) study, experiences of autonomy were measured using Breaugh’s (1985) work autonomy scale
which includes a measure of employees’ perceptions of work criteria flexibility. It is possible that employees
who have more flexibility in the way that they are evaluated also have greater power, and that power was a
confounding variable in Vardi and Weitz’ study. Future research assessing autonomy should thus distinguish
among the different sources of experiences of autonomy (e.g., making decisions, having power over resources,
being able to solve problems, believing in the company’s purpose, having flexible work conditions, etc.), as these
constructs may have different outcomes.
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69
6. Conclusion
In conclusion, the present series of studies provides clues as to how managers and organizations may be
empowered to prevent occurrences of CWB-O in their employees. While past research has mainly focused on
employees’ personality as a determinant of CWB-O, the present findings suggest that employee CWB-O is also
influenced by the level of autonomy they experience in their work environment and by their work motivation.
Work environments that provide employees with opportunities to be autonomous may foster employees’
identification with their work. In turn, the more employees do their work because they value it, the more deviant
work behavior is likely to be perceived as counterproductive for their organization’s as well as for their own goal
attainment. In line with this proposition, employees with identified motivation for work engage in CWB-O less
frequently. Future research will determine how managers and organizations may support their employees
autonomy in various situations.
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Notes
Note 1. An experimental manipulation was originally included to influence participants’ experiences of
autonomy. There were two distinct conditions, one where participants received controlling instructions and one
where participants received autonomy-supportive instructions. However, participants did not differ between the
two conditions as a function of experiences of autonomy (t = 0.385, p = .70), identified motivation (t = 0.826, p
= .41), or deviant behavior (t = 0.230, p = .82). All participants were thus treated as one sample.
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Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s), with first publication rights granted to the journal.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
... This notation is important because inside sales agents endure considerable schedule surveillance, which counters the need for individuals to have greater control over their time. When employees have a say or some level of choice over their work hours, it enhances their feeling and sense of autonomy (Bureau et al., 2018;Roberts et al., 2007). The ability to control one's time is present in this company's attempt to maximize autonomous motivation by allowing its agents to choose their schedule one of two ways. ...
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Using self-determination theory, this research sheds light on the role of different subjective, or functional, meanings of cash rewards on employees’ functioning. Based on three samples of workers from across the world in a variety of industries, the current research provides empirical evidence that cash rewards perceived as having an informative meaning positively contribute to their psychological needs, which leads to better functioning, whereas cash rewards perceived as having a controlling meaning negatively contributed to their psychological needs, which is then associated with suboptimal functioning. These findings highlight the theoretical and practical relevance of considering employees’ perceptions to understand the influence of cash reward programs on their commitment, quality of motivation and behaviors in the workplace as well as to better design these programs, including their roll out strategies, if organizations set those in place to drive healthier forms of motivation and commitment.
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Self-determination theory proposes a multidimensional conceptualization of motivation comprising autonomous and controlled forms. Whereas autonomous motivation relates positively to individuals’ optimal functioning (e.g., well-being, performance), controlled motivation is less beneficial. To be able to use self-determination theory in the field of organizational behaviour, the Multidimensional Work Motivation Scale was developed and tested using data from 3435 workers in seven languages and nine countries. Factorial analyses indicated that the 19-item scale has the same factor structure across the seven languages. Convergent and discriminant validity tests across the countries also indicate that the psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness as well as the theoretically derived antecedents to work motivation (e.g., leadership and job design) are predictably related to the different forms of motivation, which in turn are predictably related to important work outcomes (e.g., well-being, commitment, performance, and turnover intentions). Implications for the development of organizational research based on self-determination theory are discussed.
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For the international Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS2007) math and science motivation scales (self-concept, positive affect, and value), we evaluated the psychometric properties (factor structure, method effects, gender differences, and convergent and discriminant validity) in 4 Arab-speaking countries (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, and Egypt) and 4 English-speaking Anglo-Saxon countries (United States, England, Australia, and Scotland). In this article, we also highlight methodological weaknesses in the TIMSS approach to these motivation measures. We found reasonable support for within-group invariance across the math and science domains and between-group invariance across countries for full factor loading invariance and partial item intercept invariance. However, the factor structure is complicated by strong negative-item method effects and correlated unique characteristics associated with the use of math and science items with parallel wording. Correlations involving the motivation factors were reasonably similar across countries, supporting both discriminant and convergent validity in relation to achievement, plans to take more coursework in math and science, and long-term educational aspirations. However, gender differences largely favor girls in the Arab countries (with strong single-sex education systems) relative to Anglo countries (and international norms). The juxtapositions of latent mean differences in achievement and motivation factors are perplexing; students from Anglo countries had substantially higher achievement than students from Arab countries but had substantially lower motivation across all 8 math and science factors. Keywords: math and science motivation, trends in international mathematics and science study, math and science gender difference, negative item method effects, cross-cultural measurement invariance
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There seems to be a new realization among scholars that intentional acts of misbehaviour are a prevalent aspect of organizational behaviour and therefore merit scientific scrutiny (Bamberger and Sonnenstuhl, 1998; Griffin, O’Leary-Kelly and Collins, 1998; Sackett and DeVore, 2001). Not only are these acts common among members of organizations but their costs for employers and society at large are enormous (Bennett and Robinson, 2000; Murphy, 1993). Our chapter supports this view by presenting a general framework and empirical evidence that some personal and positional variables may be regarded as antecedents of various forms of organizational misbehaviour. We argue that one of the important factors conducive to misbehaviour in the workplace is the actual opportunity to engage in it. Such an opportunity may be related to specific characteristics of the job and of its surroundings. That is to say, the level of control, or alternatively the level of autonomy inherent in the job, creates a structure of opportunity that facilitates not only desirable and normative behaviours, but also various forms of misbehaviour. Most of the research on the effect of job autonomy on employees has, not surprisingly, focused on positive work outcomes such as performance and satisfaction (Breaugh, 1985; Hackman and Oldham, 1980). We have identified only a few studies whose focus was on negative outcomes (Allen and Greenberg, 1980; Dwyer and Fox, 2000; Wortman and Breham, 1975).
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Studies in 2 work organizations tested a self-determination theory based model in which employees' autonomous causality orientation and their perceptions of their managers' autonomy support independently predicted satisfaction of the employees' intrinsic needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness, which in turn predicted their performance evaluations and psychological adjustment. Path analysis indicated that the self-determination theory model fit the data very well and that alternative models did not provide any advantage.
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Researchers have established a link between interpersonal conflicts among employees and counterproductive work behavior (CWB), which consists of acts that harm organizations and people in organizations. Both conflict and CWB can be damaging variables that have far reaching consequences for organizations. In a study of 116 employee–coworker dyads, we tested models linking leadership behaviors (passive/avoidant leadership and transformational leadership), interpersonal conflict (with coworkers and supervisors), and CWB directed toward the organization or other people. We found support for models positing that leadership behaviors and interpersonal conflict lead to negative emotions, which in turn lead to the amount of CWB committed.
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Self-determination theory (0160 and 0170) suggests that autonomy-supportive environments, where one's perspective is considered, feelings are recognized, meaningful informations are given, and opportunities for choice are provided, promote optimal functioning. Many studies show that autonomy support leads to positive affective, cognitive, and behavioral consequences. However, this body of research is little known because studies are scattered throughout various research fields and no review of the overall positive impact of autonomy support in various life domains is available. This literature review presents studies on this interpersonal style in five life domains.