Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 178–189 | Cite as

Basic psychological needs and work motivation: A longitudinal test of directionality

  • Anja H. Olafsen
  • Edward L. Deci
  • Hallgeir Halvari
Original Paper


Most work-related studies of self-determination theory (SDT) have focused either on satisfaction of basic psychological needs or on types of work motivation when studying motivational processes at work. The few studies that have considered both mechanisms have usually assumed that satisfaction or frustration of basic psychological needs is a prerequisite of different types of work motivation. Nevertheless, the directionality of this relation has not been explicitly tested in previous studies of the workplace. The current study explored the relations among managerial need support, basic psychological need satisfaction at work, and work motivation. It tested competing sets of hypotheses regarding the directionality of these three core constructs within SDT’s model of work motivation. A longitudinal analysis suggested that managerial need support was positively directly related to basic psychological need satisfaction but not directly related to work motivation. Further, results indicated that basic psychological need satisfaction was related to work motivation over time and not the other way around. In addition, it was found an indirect relation between in managerial need support and in work motivation through in basic psychological need satisfaction. These findings have important implications for future SDT research testing process models in the workplace.


Self-determination theory Managerial need support Basic psychological need satisfaction Work motivation Longitudinal 



This research is a part of a project supported by a grant from Buskerud University College Research Program in Management.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there are no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The data collection was approved by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services and participation was voluntary. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anja H. Olafsen
    • 1
  • Edward L. Deci
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Hallgeir Halvari
    • 1
  1. 1.University College of Southeast NorwayHønefossNorway
  2. 2.University of RochesterRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Australian Catholic UniversitySydneyAustralia

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