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Tenets of self-determination theory as a mechanism behind challenge demands: a within-person study

Chris Giebe (Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, Psychologisches Institut, Johannes Gutenberg-Universitat Mainz, Mainz, Germany) (University Medical Center Mainz, Mainz, Germany)
Thomas Rigotti (Department of Work, Organizational, and Business Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany) (Leibniz Insitute for Resilience Research, Mainz, Germany)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 22 October 2020

Issue publication date: 24 June 2022




This study investigated a mechanism by which challenge stressors may affect employee well-being outcomes. This study tested a within-person longitudinal model in which the effects of challenge demands relate to basic psychological need satisfaction/thwarting and worker well-being outcomes. In particular, basic psychological need satisfaction and thwarting were hypothesized to mediate challenge demands and outcomes at the intraindividual level.


Data from 84 employees from a weekly survey across four weeks (308 observations) were used in Bayesian multilevel path analyses to test hypotheses.


Although significant indirect effects showed that basic psychological needs mediate between demands and worker outcomes, only a few specific indirect effects (e.g. the path from time pressure via thwarting the need for autonomy to emotional exhaustion) operated as hypothesized. Interestingly, in this study, time pressure was only mediated via thwarting the need for autonomy when considering undesirable worker outcomes (i.e. increased emotional exhaustion, decreased job satisfaction). Job complexity, however, led to decreased emotional exhaustion via the need for competence satisfaction. Implications for need satisfaction and thwarting as mechanisms in the challenge–hindrance framework are discussed.


This study (1) extends the challenge–hindrance framework to include basic psychological needs as a mechanism, (2) expands basic psychological needs to include need thwarting and (3) may enhance our understanding of stressor categories.



Giebe, C. and Rigotti, T. (2022), "Tenets of self-determination theory as a mechanism behind challenge demands: a within-person study", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 37 No. 5, pp. 480-497.



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