Are intrinsic motivational factors of work associated with functional incapacity similarly regardless of the country?

A Väänänen, K Pahkin, P Huuhtanen, M Kivimäki, J Vahtera, T Theorell, R Kalimo
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2005, 59 (10): 858-63

BACKGROUND: Many psychosocial models of wellbeing at work emphasise the role of intrinsic motivational factors such as job autonomy, job complexity, and innovativeness. However, little is known about whether the employees of multinational enterprises differ from country to country with regard to intrinsic motivational factors, and whether these factors are associated with wellbeing similarly in the different countries. The purpose of this study was to examine the level of intrinsic motivational factors and their impact on functional incapacity in different countries in a multinational corporation.

METHODS: In 2000, data were collected from a globally operating corporation with a questionnaire survey. The participants were 13 795 employees (response rate 59%; 56% under age 45; 80% men; 61% blue collar employees), who worked in similar industrial occupations in five countries (Canada, China, Finland, France, and Sweden).

RESULTS: The Chinese employees reported higher autonomy and lower complexity at work than the employees from the other countries. After adjustment for age, sex, socioeconomic status, and physical work environment, job autonomy, and job complexity at work were associated with functional incapacity in most countries, whereas in China the impact was significantly stronger. In Finland and in China employees with low innovativeness at work were more prone to functional incapacity than corresponding employees in other countries.

CONCLUSIONS: The level of intrinsic motivational factors varied between the Chinese employees and those in other countries. In line with theoretical notions, the relation between intrinsic motivational factors of work and functional incapacity followed a similar pattern in the different countries. However, these country specific results show that a culture specific approach to employee wellbeing should also be applied.

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