Project Information

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Project Information

Project Title
"Understanding the Occurrence of Functional and Dysfunctional Behavior in the Workplace: A Psychological Needs Approach"

University of Groningen - Department of Organisational Psychology

PhD Student
Burkhard Wörtler

Prof. dr. N.W. van Yperen
Dr. D.P.H. Barelds

1 September 2016 - 31 August 2020



The project involves an examination of when and why workers engage in not formally specified (i.e., voluntary) functional or dysfunctional organizational behaviors. Drawing on Self-Determination Theory, it is hypothesized that autonomy, competence, as well as relatedness need fulfillment individually lead to voluntary functional behaviors (e.g., volunteering for tasks) through high levels of psychological engagement. In contrast, non-fulfillment of each of those needs is predicted to elicit frustration that is expected to be accompanied by dysfunctional organizational behaviors (e.g., withdrawal). Conceptualizing psychological needs as individual difference variables and drawing on Person-Job Fit theory, the relationships are expected to become enhanced as workers’ corresponding need strength increases. It is additionally tested whether the relationship between psychological need non-fulfillment at work and dysfunctional workplace behavior, as mediated by frustration, is a function of workers' mindset (fixed vs. growth-oriented) and workers’ moral identity. The predicted relationships are tested by means of a series of experiments and a longitudinal, multilevel field study including a sample of workers, their supervisors, and co-workers. Furthermore, an intervention study examines whether workers high in need strength and low in need fulfillment are less frustrated when they develop a growth-oriented mindset including techniques to use for working toward psychological need fulfillment on the job.


Keywords: basic psychological needs, psychological need strength, organizational behavior, Self-Determination Theory

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