Research Examines the Value of Self-Control in the Workplace

September 1, 2021by Natalie Davis

Summary of:

Wang, Y., Chen, K., Dou, K., & Liu, Y. (2021). Linking self-control to voluntary behaviors at workplace: The mediating role of job satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 1-9.

Background & Theory

This article evaluates the role of self-control and how it contributes to one’s behavior in the workplace. The initial hypothesis was that job satisfaction is the mediating relationship between self-control and either organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) or counterproductive work behavior (CWB).

Research Questions

Wang et al., in “Linking self-control to voluntary behaviors at workplace: The mediating role of job satisfaction” (2021), seek to address the following questions:

    1. How does self-control affect our behaviors in the workplace?
    2. How does one’s job satisfaction impact this relationship?


For this study, there were a total of 1101 participants, all of whom were working in China. The participant demographics included 493 males/608 females, aged between 18-64 years old, with the average employee working roughly 4.5 years at their organization. All of the participants were provided a questionnaire with a 5-point or 7-point scale that the participants rated their feelings (the scales varied based on the questionnaire sections). The questions related to self-control, job satisfaction, organizational citizenship behavior, and counterproductive work behavior. The data was then analyzed through descriptive statistics, correlation analyses, a hypothesized mediation model, and confirmatory factor analyses.


The results showed that the authors’ hypotheses were correct – self control and job satisfaction both play an important role in overall workplace behavior. Self-control and job satisfaction had a positive relationship, though self-control and CWB had a negative relationship. Additionally, job satisfaction was associated with OCB in a positive relationship and with CWB in a negative relationship. Job satisfaction was shown to be a mediator in the relationship between self-control and either OCB or CWB. Overall, the more self-control a person has, the more likely they are to be satisfied in their job, and the more likely OCB behavior is.

What This Means

  • Self-control is a very important skill to have, and organizations may benefit from finding ways to incorporate training related to this.
  • Self-control can help lead to greater job satisfaction (in part due to one’s ability to cope and prevent/resolve issues), and this in turn leads to greater OCB, which benefits the employee and the organization.
  • Creating an environment that allows for positive job satisfaction might encourage employees to have more self-control, leading to the benefits above, and lowering the chances of CWB taking place.

Final Takeaway

For Consultants: Understand how self-control may be applied in the workplace and how leadership and work-related trainings might incorporate this.

For Everyone: Self-control has many benefits, one of which might help you have a more positive work experience. Being self-reflective can help you identify areas you might need to improve related to self-control.

Natalie Davis

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