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What matters more for daily well- and ill-being? The dual pathways of daily need satisfaction and frustration

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The self-determination theory denotes that employees’ basic psychological needs should be fulfilled for them to experience optimal functioning (‘bright’ pathway). However, these needs may also be thwarted, often resulting in less favorable outcomes (‘dark’ pathway). Although need satisfaction has been widely researched, need frustration has been explored less. The needs are context-responsive and vary daily but are more often investigated at the between-person level rather than the within-person level. This study aimed to understand the dual pathways (to well- and ill-being) of daily need satisfaction and frustration through the different motivational regulations. We also compared whether daily need satisfaction related more strongly to positive outcomes than need frustration and whether need frustration was more strongly associated with adverse outcomes. An intensive longitudinal quantitative research design with a multilevel approach was used. Employees in small and medium enterprises were asked to complete daily surveys for 10 working days (N = 68/n = 557). Data were analyzed using multilevel structural equation modeling. The results revealed that both daily need satisfaction and frustration had an indirect influence on work engagement and exhaustion via intrinsic motivation. The indirect effect of daily need satisfaction on work engagement was more substantial than need frustration, while daily need frustration was more strongly related to exhaustion via intrinsic motivation. The implications are that management can actively make efforts to support employees’ daily needs and reduce their daily need frustration. Theoretically, researchers should include both need satisfaction and frustration to account for the dual pathways to employee outcomes.

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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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The authors would like to thank all participants for contributing to this study.


The study is funded by the National Research Foundation (TTK190307422577), but the ideas and opinions remain those of the researchers. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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All authors contributed to the study’s conception and design. Lynelle Coxen acted as the primary researcher, as this study forms part of her doctoral research. Leoni van der Vaart, Anja Van den Broeck, Sebastiaan Rothmann, and Bert Schreurs acted as supervisors. They played an advisory role, assisting in the study’s conceptualization, interpreting the research results, and refining the manuscript. Thus, material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Lynelle Coxen. Lynelle Coxen wrote the first draft of the manuscript and all authors commented on subsequent versions. All authors read and approved the final manuscript for publication.

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Correspondence to Lynelle Coxen.

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Conflict of interests

The authors have no conflict of interests (either financial or non-financial) to disclose.

Ethics approval

Ethics approval for the study was obtained from the North-West University (NWU-00880-21-A4). Participants provided informed consent to participate in the study voluntarily.

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Lynelle Coxen has first authorship.

Leoni van der Vaart, Anja Van den Broeck, Sebastiaan Rothmann and Bert Schreurs share senior authorship and have contributed equally to the work.

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Coxen, L., van der Vaart, L., Van den Broeck, A. et al. What matters more for daily well- and ill-being? The dual pathways of daily need satisfaction and frustration. Curr Psychol 42, 32552–32565 (2023).

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