Designing Motivating Jobs

Designing Motivating JobsDesigning Motivating Jobs

Sharon K. Parker
Institute of Work Psychology
University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN
Email: s.parker@sheffield.ac.uk
and
Sandra Ohly
Institute of Psychology
Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
Email: ohly@psych.uni-frankfurt.de

Introduction
Work design – the structure, content, and configuration of people’s work tasks and roles –
remains a fundamentally important issue in contemporary work places. With dramatic changes
occurring in the work place, such as the widespread introduction of flexible working and the
prevalence of new and transforming information technologies, theories that help to understand work
design and its impact on employees and organizations are highly relevant. New issues need to be
attended to if one is to achieve motivating work within this changing context, such as how to design
effective virtual work. At the same time, traditional concerns in the field of job design, such as levels
of job autonomy, remain important. Call centers, for example, are often characterized by forms of
work organization that deskill and disempower the work force. The relevance of work design as a
critical issue, for individuals as well as organizations, therefore continues. We focus here on the
design of motivating work, thereby connecting macro aspects such as organizational design and
change with the micro-processes of motivation.
Our main aim in the current chapter is to integrate existing work design theory with advances
in our understanding of work motivation, thereby increasing its usefulness for addressing
contemporary issues. In particular, we argue that the concept of motivation within work design
theory has thus far been treated in rather vague terms. We draw on Kanfer’s (1990) task specific
motivation theory, as well as other advances (e.g., self-determination theory, regulatory focus
theory), to derive more specific propositions about how work design relates to an expanded array of
motivational states (including, for example, different types of extrinsic motivation), as well as
specific pathways by which work characteristics affect the kinds of goals employee choose (goal
generation) and their persistence in achieving them (goal striving).

Designing Motivating Jobs

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