Task Significance as a Motivational Mechanism

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Ronald F. Piccolo, Rollins College
Manuela Priesemuth, University of Central Florida
Adam Grant, University of Pennsylvania
2010 SIOP Presentation

Transformational leadership is related to
employee perceptions of job characteristics.
 Piccolo and Colquitt (2006)
 Purvanova, Bono, and Dzieweczynski (2006)

Thus, recent studies have reported effects of
Leadership on subjective Job Perceptions, but
failed to control for the job’s objective nature.
To examine the influence of leadership on
employees’ job perceptions, controlling for
objective measures of job characteristics.
This research extends previous work by Piccolo,
Greenbaum, Den Hartog, & Folger (2010)
Transformational leaders…




“concentrate their efforts on long term goals,”
“place emphasis and value on developing a vision,”
“Inspire followers to pursue the vision”,
“change or align systems to accommodate their
vision rather than work within existing systems,”
and
 “coach followers to take greater responsibility
toward their own development .”B
B Howell & Avolio
(1993)

Followers rely on cues from the environment to form
judgments about work.A

As central in the work context, leaders foster job
perceptions by sharing relevant info, role modeling,
and directing follower attention to relevant
information. B

Often, judgment about work (i.e., job perceptions)
diverge from the actual reality of work conditions
 Subjective Perceptions ≠ Objective Reality
A
Salancik & Pfeffer (1978); B Griffin (1981)


This research is on Leadership and on Job
Perceptions
In the Job Design literature, there is subtle yet
important distinction between objective
properties of the job – and subjective
perceptions.
 Objective ≠ Subjective

Leaders have an influence on both!
Objective Job
Characteristics
(Control)
Leadership
Employee Job
Perceptions
Employee
Outcomes
Transformational
Leadership
JCT
Autonomy &
Significance
Performance
Task & OCB
Leadership
Study 1 (JOB)
Study 2 (SIOP)
Study 3
(ongoing)
Focal
Focal
Coworker
Co-Worker
Co-Worker
O*Net
Focal
Focal
Focal
Focal
Focal
Co-Worker
Supervisor
Supervisor
181
126
155
Job Characteristics
Objective Assessment
Subjective Assessment
Effort
Performance & OCB
n
Snowball Sampling Design: Working undergrad and graduate students (with a
coworker) were recruited to participate.

Measures
 Transformational Leadership was assessed using the MLQ (Bass &
Avolio, 1995).
▪ “ My supervisor talks enthusiastically about what needs to be done.”
 Task Significance was assessed using Grant’s (2008) measure of
Prosocial Impact.
▪ “ My job frequently improves the lives of other people.”
 Job Autonomy was measured using Morgeson and Humphrey’s (2006)
measure.
▪ “ This job gives me considerable opportunity for independence and freedom in how I
do the work.”
 Objective job characteristics
▪
Coworkers rated the task significance and job autonomy of the focal employee.

Measures cont’d
 Dependent variables (Supervisor Rated)
▪ Taking Charge (Morrison & Phelps, 1999)
 “This employee often tries to change how his/her job is
executed in order to be more effective.”
▪ Voice (van Dyne & LePine,1998)
 “This employee speaks up in this department with ideas for
new projects or changes in procedures.”
▪ Organization Member Proficiency (Griffin, Neal, & Parker, 2007)
 “ This employee talks about the organization in positive ways.”
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
TFL
(.96)
Autonomy
.31**
(.91)
Task Significance
.30**
.44** (.95)
Autonomy (c)
.35**
.51**
.23**
(.91)
Task Significance (c)
.35**
.31**
.47**
.45** (.96)
Taking Charge
.20** .23**
.23**
.22*
Voice
.24** .35**
.29** .27**
.27**
.72**
Org. Member
Proficiency
.23**
.34**
.38**
.48** .61**
.38**
.36**
8
.26** (.93)
(.89)
(.87)
*p ≤ .05. **p ≤ .01
Task SignCOW
.42*
TAKING
CHARGESUP
.22*
TASK
SIGNIFICANCE
.21*
.20*
.25*
Transformational
Leadership
VOICESUP
.14 †
.19*
AUTONOMY
.52*
.35**
.35*
ORG MEMBER
PROFICIENCYSUP
AutonomyCOW
n = 126. *p ≤ .05. †p ≤ .10
Leaders shaped subjective job perceptions, even when
controlling for an objective measure.

Assessing the influence of leadership on an
individual’s job perceptions controlling for
objective measures of the job (O*Net)

Measures
 Ethical leadership (Brown, Trevino, & Harrison,
2005)
 Task Significance and Job Autonomy (Morgeson &
Humphrey, 2006)
 O*Net data
JCT ~ Autonomy


The job gives me a chance to use my personal initiative and judgment in carrying out the work
The job gives me considerable opportunity for independence and freedom in how I do the work
O*Net ~ Structure versus Unstructured Work


To what extent does this job allow the worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
r = .19*
JCT ~ Task Significance


The job itself is very significant and important in the broader scheme of things
This job is one where a lot of other people can be affected by how well the work gets done
O*Net ~ Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results


How do the decisions an employee makes impact the results of co-workers, clients or the
company?
r = .22*
1
1. Ethical
Leadership
2
3
4
--
2. Autonomy
.18*
--
3. Structured*
.21*
. 19*
--
4. Task Significance
.37*
.33*
.21*
5. Impact*
.27*
.08
.40*
.22*
Structured versus Unstructured Work — To what extent does this job allow the
worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — How do the decisions
an employee makes impact the results of co-workers, clients or the company?
n = 155. *p ≤ .05.
Task SignO*Net
.29*
TASK
SIGNIFICANCE
.28*
ETHICAL
LEADERSHIP
.06
AUTONOMY
.40*
AutonomyO*Net
n = 159. *p ≤ .05.



Leaders help shape meaning of peoples’ jobs.
Here, we found a unique effect of leadership
on subjective job assessments, controlling for
objective features of the job.
Employees rely on informational and
behavioral cues in the environment to
construct their work.


In all, managers in organizations can enhance
job perceptions of employees through
persuasion, communication or behavioral
patterns.
This research created new insights for the job
and work design literature as well as the
leader’s role in shaping one’s work
experience.
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