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The Study of Compensation Systems Through the Lens of Self-Determination Theory: Reconciling 35 Years of Debate


  • Jacques Forest
  • Marylène Gagné


Although compensation specialists generally argue for incentive systems that link rewards to performance, self-determination theory argues that such contingent rewards can have detrimental effects on autonomous motivation. The authors present a model of the motivational effects of compensation systems that attempts to reconcile the self-determination theory view and the literature on compensation. This model evaluates how compensation system characteristics, such as the amount and variability of pay, can influence the satisfaction of the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which in turn influence autonomous work motivation. Si les spécialistes en rémunération sont généralement en faveur des systèmes de primes qui lient la récompense à la performance, la théorie de l'autodétermination, quant à elle, suggère que de telles récompenses contingentes peuvent nuire à la motivation autonome. Nous présentons un modèle des effets motivationnels engendrés par les systèmes de rémunération qui tente de faire concorder la théorie de l'autodétermination avec la documentation sur la rémunération. Ce modèle évalue de quelle façon les caractéristiques des systèmes de rémunération, tels les variations de la rémunération et son niveau, peuvent influer sur la satisfaction du besoin d'autonomie, la compétence et le rapprochement, lesquels peuvent, à leur tour, marquer la motivation autonome au travail.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacques Forest & Marylène Gagné, 2011. "The Study of Compensation Systems Through the Lens of Self-Determination Theory: Reconciling 35 Years of Debate," CIRANO Working Papers 2011s-54, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2011s-54

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    Cited by:

    1. Marco Faillo & Costanza Piovanelli, 2017. "Wage delegation and intrinsic motivation: an experimental study," CEEL Working Papers 1701, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
    2. Agnès Festré & Pierre Garrouste, 2015. "Theory And Evidence In Psychology And Economics About Motivation Crowding Out: A Possible Convergence?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(2), pages 339-356, April.

    More about this item


    self-determination theory; compensation; rewards; incentives; organizational justice.; théorie de l'autodétermination; compensation; récompenses; mesures incitatives; justice organisationnelle.;

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