How the approval of rules influences motivation

Publication Date13 May 2014
AuthorEmil Inauen
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Global HRM
How the approval of rules
influences motivation
Emil Inauen
Department of Business Administration, University of Zurich,
Zurich, Switzerland
Purpose – With their specific characteristics, religious orders provide an interesting environment that
can be used to deepen the understanding and dynamics of work motivation in the public secto r. The
paper aims to discuss this issue.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper empirically investigates the levels and kinds of
motivation (from extrinsic to intrinsic) in different religious orders, and analyze some major factors
of influence. A broad survey of monastic leaders offers a unique data set to analyze the influence of
constitutions and traditions on motivation in a quantitative and comparative way. The theoretical
foundationsare based uponself-determinationtheory (SDT), formalizationand public servicemotivation.
Findings – The paper shows that even the most constrained and hierarchically structured
communities succeed in preventing a crowding out of self-determined motivation. On the one hand,
this can be ascribed to the influence of faith and religion. On the other hand, and this is the focus
of the paper, the analysis suggests that if norms and structures are approved and considered essential,
a crowding-out effect is absent, and motivation levels can be maintained.
Research limitations/implications – This study has an explorative character; it is intended to
provide interest for further research. Because of the particular p osition of religious orders, and equally
because of the relatively small sample and few variables concerning the approval of rules and
traditions, further investigations in other settings are needed.
Practical implications – An alternative path to increase public service motivation comes into play.
The negative effects of little or no autonomy and strict regulation in an organization’s daily routines
can be tempered by a conscious composition and awareness of governance, i.e. an understanding of
and agreement upon constitutions, rules and traditions.
Originality/value – The approval of constitutions and traditions has received little study, yet offers
new insights into public service motivation, SDT and fo rmalization.
Keywords Organizational psychology, Intrinsic motivation, Employee motivation,
HRM in the public sector, Public service motivation, Approval of norms, Constitutions and traditions,
Religious orders, Self-determination theory
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
In the last decade, motivation and engagement of employees has been shown to be low
at all hierarchical levels and in different forms of organizations (Gallup, 2009; Lange,
2009). Further, the downward tendency continues (Rost et al., 2008). For example, in the
USA (but also in many other countries) approximately one-third of employees work
with passion and feel a profound connection to their organization. Thus, an exploration
of work motivation remains of great relevance. According to Simon (1991), the
effectiveness of an organization depends largely on providing the basic conditions
for motivating the employees beyond “work to the rules.” Therefore, self-deter mined
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 20 July 2013
Revised 29 November 2013
22 December 2013
Accepted 23 December 2013
Evidence-based HRM: a Global
Forum for Empirical Scholarship
Vol. 2 No. 1, 2014
pp. 96-113
rEmeraldGroup PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/EBHRM-07-2013-0019
The author extends special gratitude to the Swiss National Foundation for their financial
engagement. The author’s work would not have been possible without the commitment of many
padres, brothers, sisters and employees of the religious orders.
forms of motivation, for instance working because of interest or coherence of
values, play a major role. In particular, self-deter mined motives are essential in the
public sector, where the inner conviction of employees is a decisive factor for
good performance (Denhardt and Denhardt, 2000; Perry and Hondeghem, 2008).
Similarly, public service motivation is defined as “an individual’s predisposition to
respond to motives grounded primarily or uniquely in public institutions and
organizations” (Perry and Wise, 1990, p. 368) and has been treated as a form of
self-determined motiv ation in previous wo rks ( Jacobsen et al., 2013). Closely related is
the field of public service ethos (Horton, 2006; Rayner et al., 2011). A sense of pride in
serving and an awareness that doing a job that is helpful to others is in itself rewarding
(Vandenabeelen et al., 2006).
By addressing the impact of constitutions and traditions on the work motivation of
people, the paper contributes to this discou rse. Based on self-determination theory
(SDT) (Deci and Ryan, 1985, 2000; Frey, 1997), formalization theory (Adler and Borys,
1996) and PSM, I explore how the consent to constitutions and the acce ptance of
traditions influences the characte ristics of motivation within a work context. For this
endeavor I look at a very particular type of service organization, the religious orders of
the Catholic Church or, more precisely, at the local communities of different religious
orders. However, is it possible to compare monastic institutions and public service
organizations in an insightful way at all?
Organizations maintain a particular position on a continuum in many different
areas: similar characteristics increase the comparability (Tracey, 2012; Alford and
Hughes, 2008). Thus monastic insights are unlikely to apply for all public sector
organizations, but for many. I see at least four relevant dimensions. First, there exists
substantial common ground in the motivational structu res. Padres and brothers have
a strong inner motivation for contributing to the “Kingdom of God,” i.e. to follow Jesus
and serve the people. Similarly, public service employees have been shown to be driven
by a strong desire to contribute to society (Crewson, 1997; Cropf, 2008; Houston, 2000;
Perry et al., 2008; Rainey et al., 1976). In both sectors, exter nal incentives, such as
rewards and controls are only possible to a limited extent, which is why inner
motivation is essential. In the conviction to serve society, public sector organizations
resemble mission and value-oriented enterprises (e.g. Bao et al., 2013; Besley and
Ghatak, 2005). Second, organizations where traditions, codes or constitutions play an
important role will more likely respond to the ap proach laid out in this paper. Giauque
et al. (2012) define public organizations (not religious orders) as a set of formal rules,
procedures and a strict hierarch ical command which “sanctifies the sup eriority of rules
and laws over the employees’ or customers’ expectations” (G iauque et al., 2012, p. 179).
The risk of a lack in motivation or even resignation (Giauque et al., 2012) can be
countered with the promotion of a common under standing of values. The approval of
traditions and constitutions offers one way to foster such accordance and to maintain
high levels of self-determined motivation. This is easier to achieve if constitutions and
traditions are already embedded in the organizational structures. A good example is
the current discourse on good governance, where codes and declaratio ns of intent gain
more relevance. A third important dimension is the nature of the task (Alford and
Hughes, 2008). Catholic orders are considered an archetype of public sector
organizations (Tilgher, 1930; Weber, 1930). The religious orders had a major imp act on
public institutions and structures. In medieval times, they were pioneers in the
development of constitutional law and political institutions (Berman, 1983; Moulin,
1965), healthcare (Crislip, 2005) and education (Lindberg, 2008; McGrath, 2007)[1].
Approval of
rules influences

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT