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

  • Ying Zhang
  • Jian ZhangEmail author
  • Jacques Forest
  • Zhihua Chen
Original Paper


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.


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



Funding was provided by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71771022), Basic research funding project of University of Science and Technology Beijing (Grant No. FRF-BR-18-001B) and China Scholarship Council (CSC).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Donlinks School of Economics and ManagementUniversity of Science and Technology BeijingBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of Organization and Human Resource Management, School of Management SciencesUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada
  3. 3.School of Humanities and Economic ManagementChina University of Geosciences BeijingBeijingChina

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