Study Examines How Three Basic Psychological Needs Affect Work Engagement - Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

Summary of:

Sadaf, Q., Aziz, M., and Anjum, G., “Role of organizational culture in psychological needs satisfaction and work engagement” (2019). Business Review: (2019) 14(1), 1-16.

Background & Theory:

Past studies have established the precept that psychological needs play a large role in influencing employee perception of work. Specifically, these studies have suggested that employees have three basic intrinsic psychological needs when it comes to working: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This study seeks to take this past research a step further by examining how the three psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness affect employee work engagement.


Research was completed to answer the following questions:

  1. Do the three psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness mediate the relationship between organizational culture and work engagement?
  2. Is the satisfaction of basic psychological needs significantly different among type of organization and employee job level?


Data were collected from 195 male and female managerial level employees from the areas of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Three surveys were administered to these respondents. The Denison Organizational Culture Survey was used to measure the four aspects of organizational culture: involvement, consistency, adaptability, and mission. The Basic Psychological Needs at Work Scale is a 21-item Likert scale-type assessment that was used to obtain data related to psychological needs. The UTRECHT Work engagement scale was used to measure work engagement via a 7-point frequency rating scale. Data were collected and then analyzed through IBM SPSS 23 and Process Macro V3.


Analysis of data found that the three basic psychological needs partially mediate organizational culture and work engagement. While relatedness was significant and did mediate this relationship, autonomy and competence were not significant and did not. The researchers conclude this could be in part due to Pakistani collectivistic culture. This study also found that private organizations are more likely to provide an organizational culture that can fulfill the basic psychological needs of employees and their work engagement. Additionally, it was discovered that middle and higher-level managers were more perceptive of organizational culture, had their psychological needs better met, and had higher work engagement than lower-level managers.

What We Can Learn:

Looking over this research, we can take away this key insight:

  • The psychological need of relatedness has an influential effect on employee work engagement. This study suggests that if an employee is surrounded by an organizational culture that values relatedness, they will likely be more engaged in their work.

Final Takeaways

For Consultants: Employees who do not feel they have good relationships with their coworkers are likely not having a fundamental psychological need met. Ensuring an organization operates with a culture that values relatedness helps meet this internal need for employees.

For Everyone: If you feel like there is a disconnect between you and your coworkers and it affects your ability to engage in work, finding ways to build relationships with them may be a helpful way to improve workplace culture and your own work experience.

Noah Shaw

Noah is the Peace Operations Coordinator at Pollack Peacebuilding Systems and holds a Master's in Dispute Resolution from the Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law.

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