Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Rafael Landaeta

Committee Member

Adrian Gheorghe

Committee Member

Pilar Pazos-Lago

Committee Member

Ipek Bozkurt


Organizations have placed an overwhelming emphasis on extrinsic motivation of its workforce, normally in the form of financial incentives, in an attempt to assure individual and organizational high performance. While a significant level of financial resources is expended in this attempt to predict and influence employee behavior, no objective evidence exists of a favorable return of investment. In fact, the primary impact of most extrinsic motivation might actually be demotivation – the opposite of the intended use.

In this research the prevailing literature was examined and a conclusion about the power of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation was synthesized to explore the nature of either purpose or meaning as an effective intrinsic motivator. In addition, a diverse group of over 100 Engineering Managers was surveyed to determine their beliefs about seeking meaning and purpose to determine to what extent they engage in purpose-seeking behavior. The relationship between those beliefs and behaviors and their perceptions of the behaviors of their direct reports was surveyed as well.

The results show strong correlations between engineering managers' purpose-seeking behaviors and their positive perceptions about their subordinates' strengths in initiative and creativity. In addition, no significant correlations were found for those engineering managers who are still seeking purpose. The results of this research are important because it exposes the engineering management community to new paradigms of subordinate motivation that may lead to more predictable and positive organizational performance.