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

The perils of hospitality internship: a growth curve approach to job motivation change

Shi Xu (School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Zhiwei (CJ) Lin (School of Tourism Management, Sun Yat-Sen University, Zhuhai, China)
Mang He (School of Tourism Management, Sun Yat-Sen University, Zhuhai, China)
IpKin Anthony Wong (School of Tourism Management, Sun Yat-Sen University, Zhuhai, China)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 22 September 2022

Issue publication date: 27 January 2023




Why would a hospitality or tourism enterprise’s talent program backfire to demotivate interns from engaging in their jobs? This study aim to synthesize theoretical strands from the self-determination theory, person–environment fit theory and conservation of resources theory to investigate the predictors of perceived person–job fit and how such a fit causes changes in interns’ job motivation over time.


A four-wave longitudinal study was conducted. The four waves of data obtained from over 251 interns in China were analyzed using latent growth curve modeling.


The findings demonstrate that abusive co-worker treatment moderated the impact of perceived negative social status and perceived overqualification on perceived person–job fit. Moreover, perceived person–job fit is a significant predictor of the initial level of job motivation and flattens the decrease in job motivation over time. These findings demonstrate that interns’ job motivation generally decreased over time, and perceived person–job fit may help dampen the change trajectory of job motivation.

Practical implications

This study contributes to the practice of education and organizations in hospitality and tourism management by advocating for better interventions to improve interns’ work experience and motivations. Also, organizations can create team-building opportunities and promote teamwork that contributes to the formation of cohesive relationships and improve personal bonding.


This longitudinal inquiry conducted in China underscores the perils of hospitality/tourism internship by synthesizing a framework based on the theoretical strands germane to person–environment fit, resource conservation and self-determination. It uncovers the dark side of internship – not only due to mismanaged internship experience, but also because it could backfire to create a demotivational spiral that may ultimately drive potential talents away from hospitality/tourism organizations and industry.



This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 72074230), Art Major Project of National Social Science Foundation of China (No. 19ZD26).


Xu, S., (CJ) Lin, Z., He, M. and Wong, I.A. (2023), "The perils of hospitality internship: a growth curve approach to job motivation change", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 492-511.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles