A dynamic computational model of employees goal transformation: Using self-determination theory


Following self-determination theory, this paper investigates the relations of employees’ perceptions of supervisors’ autonomy-supportive or controlling environments to their intrinsic or extrinsic work goals using both a field study and a computational dynamics model (Vancouver and Weinhardt in Org Res Methods 15(4):602–623, 2012), which is a recent and innovative technique. In Study 1, we did an empirical study with 128 employees over a half-year period and found that employees’ perceptions of supervisors’ autonomy-supportive environments satisfied employees’ basic psychological needs and promoted their intrinsic goals; controlling environments frustrated their basic needs and promoted their extrinsic goals. In Study 2, we used a system dynamics model to simulate the change in employees’ extrinsic goals, and the results showed that perceptions of supervisors’ autonomy-supportive environments related to the transformation of employees’ extrinsic goals. The study contributes by demonstrating that employees’ perception of supervisors’ environments could be a reason for employees’ different goal orientations, and it contributes by simulating the use of the dynamic process of goal transformation in research.

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Employees’ perception of basic need = Basic need

Employees’ comparator for basic need = IF THEN ELSE(Employees’ perception of basic need < 0, -(Standard of basic need-Employees’ perception of basic need), IF THEN ELSE (Employees’ perception of basic need < 1, Standard of basic need-Employees’ perception of basic need, Employees’ perception of basic need-Standard of basic need/2))

Employees’ goal orientation = IF THEN ELSE (Employees’ comparator for basic need > 1, importance*EXP (Employees’ comparator for basic need), IF THEN ELSE (Employees’ comparator for basic need< − 1, -importance*SQRT (-Employees’ comparator for basic need), importance*Employees’ comparator for basic need))

$$\mathop {{\text{Well-being}}\;=\smallint }\nolimits^{} \left( {\text{bias}} \times {\text{employees' goal orientation}}\right) {\text{dt}}$$
$${\text{Basic need}}\;{\text{=}}\mathop \smallint \nolimits^{} \left( {{\text{employees' goal orientation}} \times 0.5+0.2 \times {\text{employees' perception of environment}}} \right){\text{dt}}$$

Employees’ perception of environment = − 3 + STEP (6, 5)

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Zhang, Y., Zhang, J., Forest, J. et al. A dynamic computational model of employees goal transformation: Using self-determination theory. Motiv Emot 43, 447–460 (2019).

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  • Goal content
  • Autonomy-supportive/controlling environments
  • Computational dynamics model
  • Goal transformation