Reactions to Changes in Work Control: Implications for Self-Determined and Non-Self-Determined Individuals

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We investigate the extent to which individuals’ global motivation (self-determined and non-self-determined types) influences adjustment (anxiety, positive reappraisal) and engagement (intrinsic motivation, task performance) in reaction to changes to the level of work control available during a work simulation. Participants (N = 156) completed 2 trials of an inbox activity under conditions of low or high work control—with the ordering of these levels varied to create an increase, decrease, or no change in work control. In support of the hypotheses, results revealed that for more self-determined individuals, high work control led to the increased use of positive reappraisal. Follow-up moderated mediation analyses revealed that the increases in positive reappraisal observed for self-determined individuals in the conditions in which work control was high by Trial 2 consequently increased their intrinsic motivation toward the task. For more non-self-determined individuals, high work control (as well as changes in work control) led to elevated anxiety. Follow-up moderated mediation analyses revealed that the increases in anxiety observed for non-self-determined individuals in the high-to-high work control condition consequently reduced their task performance. It is concluded that adjustment to a demanding work task depends on a fit between individuals’ global motivation and the work control available, which has consequences for engagement with demanding work.

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