To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

A test of hypotheses derived from self‐determination theory among public sector employees

Bård Kuvaas (Department of Leadership and Organisational Management, Norwegian School of Management, Oslo, Norway)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 1 January 2009




The purpose of this study was to test the relationship between intrinsic motivation and work performance among individuals from a broad cross‐section of job types among public employees with the objectives of contributing to self‐determination theory and assisting public management practice and research.


Respondents were drawn from three municipalities located in Norway. A questionnaire was distributed to 2,015 employees through a web‐based tool (Questback), which resulted in complete data from 779 workers, representing a response rate of approximately 39 per cent.


The findings suggest that the relationships between job autonomy and work performance and task interdependence and work performance are partly mediated by intrinsic motivation, while the relationship between supervisor support for autonomy, competence, and development and work performance is fully mediated by intrinsic motivation.

Research limitations/implications

The two most important limitations, which are discussed in more detail at the end of the paper, are the cross‐sectional nature of the study and the reliance on self‐reported questionnaire data.

Practical implications

The results support self‐determination theory and suggest that public and private sector managers should pay more attention to autonomy‐supportive work environments.


First, a recent review of self‐determination theory casts doubt on the performance implications of intrinsic motivation for less complex or interesting tasks. Thus, in order to increase our knowledge of the quality of self‐determination theory as a work motivation theory, empirical research that spans a broad cross‐section of jobs and functions in organisations is needed. Second, and despite the importance of motivation among public employees in an era of transformation to a more business‐oriented approach, there is little empirical research on public sector employee motivation.



Kuvaas, B. (2009), "A test of hypotheses derived from self‐determination theory among public sector employees", Employee Relations, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 39-56.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles