The mediating role of meaningful work between intrinsic motivation and innovative work behaviour essay


The mediating role of meaningfulwork between intrinsic motivation and innovative work behaviour

The Mediating Role of MeaningfulWork between Intrinsic Motivation and Innovative Work Behaviour

1. Introduction

Due to the increasing of acompetitive market, as it becomes more complex and dynamic, it isimportant for companies to become more innovative to identify moreopportunities for sustained superior performance (Shalley et al.,2014). One’s initiatives to be innovative is highly dependent onemployee’s human capital and behaviour at work as key inputs in thevalue creation process (Chen and Huang, 2009).

2. Literature Review andHypotheses

Literature Review

Innovative Work Behaviour

In today’s workforce, businesscompanies attempt to enhance the employees’ innovative workbehaviour to survive and develop in a competitive businessenvironment.This is supported by Janssen et al. (2004) saying that innovation isessential regarding attaining competitive advantage and long-termsurvival. Accordingto De Jong (2006), innovative work behaviour was defined as whenindividuals propose new and useful ideas, process, products, orprocedure within a company in which he works at or even in a smallproject he involves in. This behaviour could produce an improvementin organizational performance by generating, promoting, and applyingnew and innovative idea (Janssen, 2005). The generating processcaptures employees’ recognition of certain conditions or problemsand the generation of technical ideas address the identified need(Kanter, 1998). The promoting process is when individuals seeksupport for the notion they come up with and develop an alliance ofbackers and sponsors to provide resources and legitimacy (Janssen,2000). The application process emphasizes on the idea realizationwhere the individuals apply the ideas, whether it is physically orintellectually, which then it can be transferred to others (Kanter,1988).

Scott and Bruce (1994) mentionedthat the occurrence of three phases of innovative work behaviourswould be sequent in a complete process where the individuals at everyphase of the behaviors could engage with one or even the combinationof different behaviors at any one time. De Jong and Den Hartog (2007)explained that innovative work behavior is generally about criticalproblem thinking in existing working methods, unfulfilled needs ofpeople, or indication that trends may be changing, comes up with newsolutions, communicate the solutions with colleague, and finallysolve the issue with new innovative ways (Woodman et al, 1993).

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation can bedefined as someone finds pleasure and satisfaction while working on atask or activity for his/her learning, exploring, or trying tocomprehend something new (Vallerand et al., 1992). When someone isintrinsically motivated, he tends to put aside the external prods,pressures, and even rewards (Barkoukis et al., 2008).Self-determination theory (SDT) suggests that greater rewards do notnecessarily affect one`s performance to a better outcome.Specifically, people are inclined toward intrinsic motivation and theintegration of goals (Olafsen et al., 2015). Various researchers havedescribed the difference in intrinsic motivation as it exists in thenexus between a person and a task whether people see the task beinginteresting or the satisfaction they get from intrinsically motivatedtask engagement (Ryan &amp Deci, 2000), which makes the intrinsicmotivation practices are the ones that provide the satisfaction ofone`s innate psychological needs. Self-determination theory stressesthat naturally people have three psychological needs, which includesthe needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy. The needsrequire proactivity, optimal development, and psychological health ofall people (Deci &amp Vansteenkiste). As stated by White (1959), thenecessity of competence emphasized on people`s inherent desire todeal with their environment effectively. Throughout life, people tendto feel the necessity to master most of their activities that theyengage with and to feel the sense of efficiency when they do it.Whereas the need for relatedness is the natural tendency to interactwith, be connected to, and experience caring for other people(Baumeister &amp Leary, 1995), which can be referred as a sense ofbelongingness. Lastly, the need for autonomy concerns about the one`simpetus to be causal agents, to experience volition, to act in accordwith their interest and values, and also to endorse their actions atthe highest level of reflective capacity. Simply put, people feel asense of willingness to act or to choose, whether the actions arefrom their initiation or a response to a request from significantothers (Chircov et al., 2003). Some people specifically do somethingthat they find it personally important, interesting, and satisfyingrather than intend to satisfy their basic needs, which energized byphysiological drives or their derivatives (Harlow, 1953 &amp White,1959).

Meaningful Work

Rosso et al. (2010) identifiedfour sources of meaningful work – “the self, others, the workcontext and spiritual life” andthe seven categories – authenticity, self-efficacy, self-esteem,purpose, belongingness, transcendence, and cultural and interpersonalsense-making in which people experience their career as meaningful.According to Kantian theory (Bowie, 1998) there are six componentsthat describe a meaningful work: a) work that is freely entered intob) work that allows an individual to exercise his autonomy andindependence (c) work that enables an individual to develop hisrational capacities (d) work that provides a wage sufficient forphysical welfare (e) work that supports his moral development (f)work that is not paternalistic.

Michaelson etal. (2013) found that when one experiences meaningful work, he wouldlikely to report greater well-being, view their work as importantthat could give impact to himself as well as others, place his workas highly valuable, and they tend to experience greater jobsatisfaction because they feel that their job serves a higher purpose(Sparks &amp Schenk, 2001).


IntrinsicMotivation and Innovative Work Behaviour

According to Gagne and Deci(2005), there is a relationship between work motivation andcreativity, which is based on insights from the intrinsic motivationperspective and it has been developed more broadly intoself-determination theory. The characteristics of intrinsicallymotivated behaviour include curiosity, cognitive flexibility, andrisk-taking behaviour in which these characteristics facilitate thedevelopment of creative ideas (Zhou, 2003). Intrinsic motivation haslong been considered as an essential element for employees’innovation as it results in innovative work behaviour (Woodman et al.1993) as their interest working on a given task that enabled them tocome up with new and better ways (Jung et al. 2003). This means thatif employees perceive their work valuable and motivating, they aremore likely to practice creativity in their work (Fuller et al.2006). Employees who are intrinsically motivated, they tend to putmore effort on their job. In other words, they would likely toperform more productively especially in tasks that require them to becreative, to have cognitive flexibility, and conceptual understanding(Kehr, 2004). It has also supported by Parker et al. (2007) sayingthat employees would leverage their existing knowledge and findalternative methods to solve work related issues. Based on theexisting findings, we hypothesize that:

H1: Intrinsic motivationpositively affects one’s innovative work behaviour.

Intrinsic Motivation andMeaningful Work

Meaningful work involves somecore job dimensions, which one of them is autonomy. Autonomy meansthat one’s opportunity to exercise discretion in work-relateddecisions. Another literature (Bowie, 1998 May 2004 Preatt andAshforth, 2003) described characteristics that constitute employees’perceived of meaningful work is “the opportunity forself-expression, sufficient challenges, and opportunities to developone’s potential.” Thus, if one fails to experience thesecharacteristics, they would likely to associate with the cognitiveharm that may result in apathy, boredom, job dissatisfaction anddisengagement. This would also harm an organization as it would leadto poor performance and turnover (e.g., Rich et al. 2010 Thomas andVelthouse 1990). Meaningful work is also characterized as someonebecomes engaged in his work and finds job satisfaction from hiscareer. According to Hackman and Oldham (1986), greater autonomyplays an important aspect for someone to experience job satisfaction.In the theory of intrinsic motivation, supportive autonomy techniqueswould afford people to satisfy their sense of competence, whicheventually would lead them to become intrinsically motivated (Deci &ampRyan, 1985). Thus, when employees are intrinsically motivated, theywould be more engaged in their work and view their job as personallymeaningful (Fairlie, 2016). Based on the existing literature, we seethat there is a connection between intrinsic motivation andmeaningful work. Therefore, based on the existing literature, weassume that:

H2: Intrinsic motivationpositively affects one’s perceived of meaningful work.

Meaningful Work and InnovativeWork Behaviour

In terms of individual innovativework behavior, according to CET, when someone perceives his jobmeaningful and has an impact on others, he would likely to increasethe original interest of the work as the sense of competence andautonomy, which are the primary drivers of intrinsic motivation (Deciand Ryan, 1985 Spreitzer et al. 1997). When employees sense theirwork more meaningful, significant and challenging, it couldsignificantly increase their innovative work behavior. One of theeffects of having meaningful work is that employees tend to have ahigher work engagement that often refers to a positive, fulfilling,affective-motivational, and work-related state of mind (e.g.,Salanova, Agut, &amp Peiró, 2005 Schaufeli &amp Bakker, 2004).Moreover, when employees are engaged, they would become moreproactive, show initiative, collaborate with colleagues effectivelyand invest positive energy into their work (Rich et al. 2010). Thesebehaviors are particularly relevant to innovative activities(Amabile, 1988). Therefore, based on the existing findings, wehypothesize that:

H3: Meaningful work positivelyaffects one’s innovative work behaviour

H4: Meaningful work mediatesthe relationship between one’s perceived of intrinsic motivationand innovative work behaviour.


Sample and Procedure

Research Design

Quantitative research design wasemployed to gain a better understanding of the relationship betweenthe three variables, intrinsic motivation, meaningful work andinnovative work behaviour. The research design employed in the studyis appropriate since it accommodates the nature of the investigationbeing conducted. The sample size is large meaning the results thatwould be obtained would represent a larger population size. Therespondents in this research are employees who occupy middle andlower level position. In conducting the study, the researchers tooka neutral stance. The research aimed at providing a broaderperspective on the identified variables. The approach adopted by theresearch seeks to provide a more comprehensive understanding of therelationship between the three variables. The choice of themethodology is essential since it has the capability of getting theanswers to the identified variables.

Research Context

The research was conducted foremployees in China and Indonesia. The expected number of participantswas 400. However, we got 376 in total both from Indonesia and China.That makes the overall response rate of 94 %. Among the employees, 62% were men 38 % of them possessed a higher educated. Theaverage age of employees was 31.7 years (SD 7.32), and their averageorganizational tenure was 7.32 (SD 7.69). The choice of the expectednumber of participants would ensure that broader perspective of therelationship between the three identified variables was sort. Alarge sample size has the benefit of being more representative thancompared to when one works with a small sample size. Further,considering that the variables were significantly different, it wasessential to have a sample size that could capture the variations inan appropriate manner. Also, there was a need to get a broad range ofdata while at the same time providing an opportunity for betteranalysis. The analysis of the results would be based on a codingsystem.

For example, the approach isbased on getting the opinion of middle-income workers on aspects ofintrinsic motivation, meaningful work, and innovative behavior.

Data Collection

The data was collected throughthe application of a survey.

The quantitative approach wasemployed since it made it possible to get the opinion of theemployees. A total of four hundred participants were pickedregardless of the product or service sector they were engaged. Boththe male and female employees were enrolled in the study. The datacollection was however limited to South East Asia citizens,specifically China and Indonesia. The decision to select participantsirrespective of the product or service sector they were was guided bythe need to minimize any form of bias. The survey would be conductedin a manner that eliminates the possibility of bias. Participantswould be selected randomly irrespective of the sector they wereengaged. Further, to get a broader perspective on the subject,participants have been chosen from both China and Indonesia. The useof the criterion would be instrumental in ensuring that opinions aresort from a wide sample size. As this survey intended to investigatethe innovative work behavior among all the employees, the work unitwas not limited to any particular departments. Before distributingthe questionnaire, we approach the employees by sending an email toknow about their willingness to participate in this research. Theresearch sought to ensure that the participants offer to undertakethe study out of their personal initiative and not by being coerced.Sending an email to each of the identified participants would see toit that they give their opinion as to whether they are willing toparticipate or not. We also asked several employees who alreadyagreed to contribute in this research to spread the questionnaireinto other colleagues. The first page of the particular surveyexplains the purpose of the study as well as provides assurance ofconfidentiality. Guaranteeing the researchers of confidentiality forethical purposes was essential. The participants had to be assured ofthe fact that the information they provided would solely be used forthe research purpose and not any other work. Further, an illustrationof the details of the research was mandatory to give the employees anidea of what the research entails. The decision to highlight thepurpose of the research would further help the participants decide onwhether they can participate or not. The research factored in theconcept that some of the employees would fail to participate for fearof intimidation. However, to alleviate such possibilities, measureswere taken to reassure them of the confidential nature of theresearch. Further, through the use of the coding system, it would bepossible to conceal the identity of the participants. They wererequired to answer all questions including their perception ofintrinsic motivation, work attitude, and innovative work behavior.

Data Analysis

A 5-pointscale is appropriate for use since it illustrates the opinion ofrespondents on a scale. The choice of the Likert scale emanates fromthe fact that the respondents have the benefit to choose from amongwhat appeals best to them. Rather than use a binary approach, thedecision to use the Likert approach would be essential for thebenefit it endows regarding the choices the respondents would makewhen answering questions in the questionnaire.

Measures: operationalizationkey concepts

The survey wasconducted in English version, which was distributed to Indonesia andChinese version, which was distributed to China. All variables in thesurvey were measure with 5-point Likert scale, and the scores rangedfrom (‘‘strongly disagree’’ to (5) ‘‘strongly agree.’’The variables used in this research were intrinsic motivation, workattitude or meaningful work, and innovative work behavior.


We adaptedfour items from Amabile et al. (1994) instrument to measureindividual’s intrinsic motivation. The sample item was: “I enjoytackling problems that are completely new to me”. The reliabilityfor the scale was .233.


We adapted tenitems from Steger and Duffy (2012) to measure one’s perceived ofmeaningful work. The sample item was: “The work I do serves agreater purpose”. The reliability for the scale was .387

InnovativeWork Behavior

We adapted sixitems from de Jong and Hartog (2010) to evaluate the employees’innovative work behavior. The sample item was: “Ifind new approaches to execute tasks”. The reliability for thescale was .837


Intrinsic WorkBehavior

It is workthat is driven by motivation emanating from one’s inner being. Therewards to be internal.

Innovativework behavior

Behaviorsdriven by the need to be creative when it comes to execution oftasks.


The positiveattitude one has regarding the nature of job they have been mandatedto undertake.


Intrinsic Motivation

Mediating Role of Meaningful Work

Innovative Work Behaviour

Meaningful Work


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