New Perspectives in Work Motivation: When Context and Time Matter
Panel Symposium Submitted to the 2007 Academy of Management Meeting
Gilad Chen (co-chair and panelist)
Associate Professor of Management & Organization
Robert H. Smith School of Business
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-1815
Ruth Kanfer (co-chair and panelist)
Professor of Psychology
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332-0170
Phone: (404) 894-5674
Wendy Boswell (panelist)
Associate Professor of Management
Mays Business School
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-4221
Phone: (979) 845-4045
Ellen Kossek (panelist)
Professor of Labor & Industrial Relations
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1032
Phone: (517) 353-9040
Kaumudi Misra (panelist)
School of Labor and Industrial Relations
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: (517) 882-2386
Sharon Parker (panelist)
Professor of Work Psychology
Institute of Work Psychology
University of Sheffield,
Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK
Phone: +44 (0)114 222 3283
Connie Wanberg (panelist)
Curtis L. Carlson Professor of Industrial Relations
Carlson School of Management
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: (612) 624-4804
The purpose of the proposed panel symposia is to stress a new perspective of work motivation,
which explicitly considers the contextual and time influences. First, we propose an expanded,
person-centric conceptualization of work motivation that emphasizes less well-studied but
increasingly relevant antecedents and consequences of motivational processes. Second we seek
to stimulate inquiry and exchange with respect to more fully delineating key contextual factors
and the associated person dynamics that influence work motivation. Third, we seek to promote
the science-practice interface by embedding discussion of motivation theory and research in the
context of current organizational concerns, including the impact of increasing diversity,
compensation practices, workforce retention, employee development, and team effectiveness.
The focus on context – defined as a set of dynamic conditions and consequences – rather than on
singular variables and their immediate impact, is hoped to further connections between theory
and research on work motivation and important phenomena in other domains, including
leadership, human resource management, and organizational cognition.
Relevance to each Academy division symposium is submitted to:
Human Resources: Human resource management is concerned with individual-, group-
and organizational-level drivers of performance. The present symposium is relevant to
the HR division, for several reasons. First, organizational and demographic changes over
the past few decades have substantially influenced policies and procedures for managing
human resources. Changes in compensation practices, work design and the greater use of
teamwork are discussed in terms of how these features of their impact on employee
motivation. Second, increasing workforce diversity has raised important concerns about
managing and retaining talented older workers and managing intergenerational issues.
Presenters will discuss the impact of recent changes in the work context, career
development, and nonwork life demands as they impact employee motivation.
Implications for the development of successful human resource practices to address
emerging issues will also be discussed.
Key Words: Employee Motivation; HRM Systems; Work Design
Organizational Behavior: Work motivation represents a topic of central importance to
this field. Over the past decade, increasing attention has focused on predicting
motivational tendencies over time and work roles as a function of goals and the
development of effective regulatory strategies. The presentations in this session will
address these issues in terms of understanding the impact of contextual and nonwork
demands on behavior over time and the use of longitudinal research designs that may
assess lagged and cross level influences on different portions of the motivational system.
The emphasis on context and change influences on motivation over time also offers
opportunities for understanding the role of leader behaviors in the entrainment of
effective motivational strategies for performance.
Key Words: Work Motivation; Contextual Influences; Person-Situation
Managerial and Organizational Cognition: The MOC division is concerned with the
study of how organization members model reality and how such models interact with
behaviors. The present symposium is relevant to this division’s domain, as work
motivation involves an inter-related cognitive processes, in which individuals (and
collectives) attempt to create fit between their behavior and the environment their operate
in. For instance, panelists in this session will address such issues of how employees’
conceptions of competence (self-efficacy) and other motivational cognitions are affected
by the design of work, the teams their work in, and the broader organizational systems.
Cognition will also be apparent in our discussion of how changes in careers and non-
work circumstances may impact employees’ motivation.
Key Words: Motivational Beliefs; Perceived Environment; Malleability of
Panel Symposium Overview
Work motivation represents a fundamental determinant of effective individual behavior
and performance in organizations. Over the past century, research advances in work motivation
have provided a cohesive picture of the cognitive processes and mechanisms by which
individuals adopt goals and implement self-regulatory processes to facilitate strong performance
accomplishments (Kanfer, 1990). Although person and situational factors have long been
recognized as critical determinants of motivational processing, the bulk of theory and research on
contextual determinants has focused on broad features of the job, such as skill variety (Hackman
& Oldham, 1976), or the influence of group phenomena, such as norms (Hackman, 1992), and
their effects on motivation and attitudes at specific points in time.
Over the past few decades, however, sweeping organizational, economic, and
demographic changes have occurred that have substantially changed the nature of work for many
individuals. Although theory and research on motivational processes remain useful, real-world
changes in the workplace and shifting organizational needs have raised new questions about the
influence of context on motivation and the dynamics of motivation change. In turn, these
concerns have spawned the development of new perspectives and methodologies for the study of
work motivation. For example, in contrast to earlier performance-centric formulations, new
formulations tend to adopt a more person-centric conceptualization that emphasizes how cultural,
nonwork, and interpersonal variables operate to influence an individual’s motivation to adopt
and sustain goals that facilitate high levels of performance over time and across work roles. The
emerging trend toward understanding work motivation and performance as a function of
individual and contextual inputs that interact in a dynamic fashion over time broadens the scope
of motivation theory and research to better understanding the effectiveness of an organization’s
management of human capital in terms of promoting performance, adjustment, and growth at the
individual, group, and organizational levels.
Kanfer, Chen, and Pritchard (forthcoming) are currently finalizing an edited book on new
perspectives in work motivation that attempts to capture these new perspectives on work
motivation and more precisely indicate how context and time affects work engagement and
motivational processes. Accordingly, the purpose of this panel discussion is to provide a forum
for chapter authors to present and discuss their conceptualizations from this new perspective, to
review recent empirical advances, and to foster new ways of thinking about work motivation that
may more effectively address contemporary organizational concerns.
Panel Session Format
The proposed 110-minute panel symposium will begin with a brief overview presentation
(10 mins). Next, each of the five panelists will make their topical presentation (15 mins each),
with each presentation followed by a brief question and answer period with the audience (5
minutes). The session will conclude with a moderated discussion period (15 minutes).
Panel Session Content
Overview. Ruth Kanfer will begin the session by providing an overview of panel
discussion objectives, and a summary of past and present knowledge in terms of how the field
has progressed and where it is heading, and a brief description of core motivational processes,
including motivational states, goal adoption, and goal striving. Kanfer will also present a new
heuristic framework that approaches work motivation from a multilevel perspective that
organizes inputs in terms of content, context, and change variables. In her overview, Kanfer will
also provide a short set of common questions to be addressed by each of the panelists.
Specifically, each panelist will address the mechanisms and dynamics by which a unique set of
contextual features influence and are influenced by motivational processes, including
motivational states, goal adoption, and goal pursuit. Panelists will also indicate major gaps in
current knowledge in their area, identify promising methodological advances, and identify
promising directions for future research. The first three presentations pertain to organizationally-
driven contextual influences, including systems-level human resource practices, job and work
design, and teams. The next two presentations address the role of person-driven contextual
influences, including career and work role transitions and nonwork demands. A brief summary
of each presentation is provided below.
Organizational systems and work motivation. Wendy Boswell will address the impact
of changes in technical and social organizational systems (e.g., organizational culture and
climate, employee involvement, performance evaluation and feedback, and reward systems) on
employee motivation. Boswell’s presentation will also consider how work motivation theories
and principles could help develop and align organizational systems more effectively.
Job and work design influences on motivation. Sharon Parker will discuss work
design as a particular pertinent contextual factor because of its potential for a sustained and
cumulative impact on motivation. Her chapter with Ohly proposes developing a more precise
understanding as to how work design affects motivation. First, she proposes extending research
beyond consideration of particular intrinsic motivational states to incorporate a more
differentiated view of extrinsic motivation, as well as including regulatory focus and goal
orientation as potential motivational states affected by work characteristics. Second, she presents
ideas about how work design affects the processes of goal generation and goal striving, which is
a topic that has had little attention to date. Finally, taking a more dynamic approach to job design
than is typical, she considers how motivational states and processes might affect job
characteristics through processes such as job crafting.
They propose that work chacteristics can affect a broader set of motivational states than
currently considered, such as They also theorise as to how work characteristics and their
interaction affect goal generation and goal striving. For example, they propose that, through their
impact on motivational states as well as non-motivational states, and through both conscious and
unconscious processes, work characteristics can affect the extent to which individuals pursue
goals that are difficult, learning and promotion-focused, and complex (i.e., higher level, longer-
term, and more encompassing).
Motivation in and of teams. Gilad Chen will address issues related to the
generalizability of motivational concepts to the team-level, and how such generalization may
serve as basis for studying the interplay between individual and team motivation. In addition, his
presentation will consider the differential influences of team-level and individual-level factors on
motivational processes, from a developmental, time-based multilevel perspective.
Motivation in the context of career and work transitions. Connie Wanberg’s
presentation will then portray the relevance of motivation theory and constructs to career
transitions, such as initial career choice, organizational entry, job loss, career reevaluation, and
retirement. Wanberg’s presentation will emphasize the importance of motivation, and especially
effective self-regulatory skills, in handling such major career transitions.
Nonwork life and work motivation. Ellen Kossek and Kaumudi Misra will consider
how non-work factors, such as employee care-giving demands and cultural socialization
regarding work and family relationships, affect and are affected by motivational processes. Their
presentation will take into account how such non-work factors might either promote or hinder
motivation at work, as well as how employee motivation might affect the effectiveness at which
employees can balance between work and non-work demands.
In summary, the purpose of the proposed symposia is threefold. First, we propose an
expanded, person-centric conceptualization of work motivation that emphasizes less well-studied
but increasingly relevant antecedents and consequences of motivational processes. Second we
seek to stimulate inquiry and exchange with respect to more fully delineating key contextual
factors and the associated person dynamics that influence work motivation. Third, we seek to
promote the science-practice interface by embedding discussion of motivation theory and
research in the context of current organizational concerns, including the impact of increasing
diversity, compensation practices, workforce retention, employee development, and team
effectiveness. The focus on context – defined as a set of dynamic conditions and consequences –
rather than on singular variables and their immediate impact, is hoped to further connections
between theory and research on work motivation and important phenomena in other domains,
including leadership, human resource management, and organizational cognition.
Hackman, J. R. 1992. Group influences on individuals in organizations. In M. D. Dunnette & L.
M. Hough (Eds.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology: 199-267.
Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. 1976. Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory.
Organizational Behavior & Human Performance, 16: 250-279.
Kanfer, R. 1990. Motivation theory and industrial and organizational psychology. In M. D.
Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology: 75-130. Palo
Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Kanfer, R., Chen, G., & Pritchard, R. 2007. Work motivation: Past, present, and future.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Forthcoming.