Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Applied Experimental Psychology

Committee Director

Miguel A. Padilla

Committee Member

Jesse T. Richman

Committee Member

Rachel R. Phillips


The work motivation literature is at an impasse. At the same time, changing economic and social conditions necessitate an ongoing transformation for how organizations motivate their workforce. Although changes in the nature of work have captured the attention of researchers, calls for more research to further develop work motivation theory have largely gone unnoticed. The scarcity of new theoretical research contributes to a lack of contextual understanding in work motivation. As such, organizational leaders continue to develop interventions based on the findings of potentially outdated work motivation theories. This may lead to diminished work motivation, productivity, and commitment, particularly for highly skilled and educated labor forces such as university faculty. Along the same lines, the faculty work motivation literature is also at an impasse. To provide perspective and promote a holistic understanding of the changing workforce, possible reasons for the impasse along with potential ways to encourage advancement are discussed.

This study provides a discussion of the methodological process through which the work motivation literature can be synthesized. Although existing review approaches are useful for describing how work motivation research has progressed over time in order to identify current research trends, they are less useful for providing a picture of how researchers could arrive at the level of insight needed to develop new theoretical perspectives. Hence, one aim of the present work is to introduce a new approach that can optimally synthesize existing theories and provide clear directions for how to develop new theoretical perspectives.

Building upon the strengths of existing review approaches, a new approach, labeled the 3D method, for synthesizing research is proposed. The 3D method is then demonstrated on the work motivation literature and subsequently applied to the faculty work motivation literature, a field that has received limited attention and as a result is also at an impasse. Indeed, insights from the 3D method approach revealed that a more coherent understanding of faculty work motivation can be achieved by leveraging the work environment, cognition, and affect.

Based on the application of the 3D method to the faculty work motivation literature, a new model of faculty work motivation is proposed and tested on a sample of university professors working at U.S. doctoral granting institutions. Long term negative affect (emotional exhaustion) was shown to explain the relationship between perceptions of the work environment, faculty job satisfaction, commitment and intent to leave academia. Specifically, faculty who received support from their department, had autonomy in structuring their daily tasks, viewed their job as important, completed their tasks from the beginning to the end, experienced less skill and task variety, and were in good health experienced less emotional exhaustion. In turn, perceptions of autonomy, task variety, and organizational support were found to have direct and indirect effects on faculty job satisfaction via emotional exhaustion. Overall, findings revealed that university faculty responded to certain work environment features and work events by experiencing emotional exhaustion, which then led to diminished job satisfaction and commitment, and intent to stay. The implications for theoretical research, institutional policy, and practice are discussed.


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