Employee work motivation and discretionary work effort

Morris, Robyn Joy (2009) Employee work motivation and discretionary work effort. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The focus of this thesis is discretionary work effort, that is, work effort that is voluntary, is above and beyond what is minimally required or normally expected to avoid reprimand or dismissal, and is organisationally functional. Discretionary work effort is an important construct because it is known to affect individual performance as well as organisational efficiency and effectiveness. To optimise organisational performance and ensure their long term competitiveness and sustainability, firms need to be able to induce their employees to work at or near their peak level. To work at or near their peak level, individuals must be willing to supply discretionary work effort. Thus, managers need to understand the determinants of discretionary work effort. Nonetheless, despite many years of scholarly investigation across multiple disciplines, considerable debate still exists concerning why some individuals supply only minimal work effort whilst others expend effort well above and beyond what is minimally required of them (Le. they supply discretionary work effort). Even though it is well recognised that discretionary work effort is important for promoting organisational performance and effectiveness, many authors claim that too little is being done by managers to increase the discretionary work effort of their employees. In this research, I have adopted a multi-disciplinary approach towards investigating the role of monetary and non-monetary work environment characteristics in determining discretionary work effort. My central research questions were "What non-monetary work environment characteristics do employees perceive as perks (perquisites) and irks (irksome work environment characteristics)?" and "How do perks, irks and monetary rewards relate to an employee's level of discretionary work effort?" My research took a unique approach in addressing these research questions. By bringing together the economics and organisational behaviour (OB) literatures, I identified problems with the current definition and conceptualisations of the discretionary work effort construct. I then developed and empirically tested a more concise and theoretically-based definition and conceptualisation of this construct. In doing so, I disaggregated discretionary work effort to include three facets - time, intensity and direction - and empirically assessed if different classes of work environment characteristics have a differential pattern of relationships with these facets. This analysis involved a new application of a multi-disciplinary framework of human behaviour as a tool for classifying work environment characteristics and the facets of discretionary work effort. To test my model of discretionary work effort, I used a public sector context in which there has been limited systematic empirical research into work motivation. The program of research undertaken involved three separate but interrelated studies using mixed methods. Data on perks, irks, monetary rewards and discretionary work effort were gathered from employees in 12 organisations in the local government sector in Western Australia. Non-monetary work environment characteristics that should be associated with discretionary work effort were initially identified through a review of the literature. Then, a qualitative study explored what work behaviours public sector employees perceive as discretionary and what perks and irks were associated with high and low levels of discretionary work effort. Next, a quantitative study developed measures of these perks and irks. A Q-sorttype procedure and exploratory factor analysis were used to develop the perks and irks measures. Finally, a second quantitative study tested the relationships amongst perks, irks, monetary rewards and discretionary work effort. Confirmatory factor analysis was firstly used to confirm the factor structure of the measurement models. Correlation analysis, regression analysis and effect-size correlation analysis were used to test the hypothesised relationships in the proposed model of discretionary work effort. The findings confirmed five hypothesised non-monetary work environment characteristics as common perks and two of three hypothesised non-monetary work environment characteristics as common irks. Importantly, they showed that perks, irks and monetary rewards are differentially related to the different facets of discretionary work effort. The convergent and discriminant validities of the perks and irks constructs as well as the time, intensity and direction facets of discretionary work effort were generally confirmed by the research findings. This research advances the literature in several ways: (i) it draws on the Economics and OB literatures to redefine and reconceptualise the discretionary work effort construct to provide greater definitional clarity and a more complete conceptualisation of this important construct; (ii) it builds on prior research to create a more comprehensive set of perks and irks for which measures are developed; (iii) it develops and empirically tests a new motivational model of discretionary work effort that enhances our understanding of the nature and functioning of perks and irks and advances our ability to predict discretionary work effort; and (iv) it fills a substantial gap in the literature on public sector work motivation by revealing what work behaviours public sector employees perceive as discretionary and what work environment characteristics are associated with their supply of discretionary work effort. Importantly, by disaggregating discretionary work effort this research provides greater detail on how perks, irks and monetary rewards are related to the different facets of discretionary work effort. Thus, from a theoretical perspective this research also demonstrates the conceptual meaningfulness and empirical utility of investigating the different facets of discretionary work effort separately. From a practical perspective, identifying work environment factors that are associated with discretionary work effort enhances managers' capacity to tap this valuable resource. This research indicates that to maximise the potential of their human resources, managers need to address perks, irks and monetary rewards. It suggests three different mechanisms through which managers might influence discretionary work effort and points to the importance of training for both managers and non-managers in cultivating positive interpersonal relationships.

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ID Code: 31725
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Bradley, Lisa, Douglas, Evan, & Mason, Claire
Keywords: discretionary work effort, work time, work intensity, direction of effort, extra-role behaviour, work motivation, perks, irks, work climate, monetary rewards, public sector, job satisfaction, team work
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 13 Apr 2010 00:12
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2014 05:06

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