Motivating deference: Employees' perception of authority legitimacy as a mediator of supervisor motivating styles and employee work-related outcomes Academic Article uri icon


  • The two studies presented here examine the extent to which perceived authority legitimacy mediates the association between supervisors' motivating styles and subordinates' work-related outcomes. From the perspective of the self-determination theory (SDT), we examined two supervisory motivating styles: the autonomy-supportive style that nurtures employees' inner motivational resources and the controlling style in which supervisors pressure their employees to behave in specific manager-directed ways. Perceived authority legitimacy was defined according to the Relational Model of Authority (RMA). The results of Study 1 (n = 191) showed that the autonomy-supportive motivating style, but not the controlling style, was associated with employees' work satisfaction, commitment, and burnout through legitimacy. These results were replicated in Study 2 (n = 314), even after controlling for task-autonomous and controlled motivation, and extended to other reported employee behavioral outcomes such as organizational citizenship behavior, deviant behavior, and conflicts within the workplace. Taken together, the results suggest that the effectiveness of the autonomy-supportive motivating style is partly due to its association with volitional deference to authority. The paper concludes by discussing theoretical implications of integrating SDT with RMA and the practical implications of the findings.

publication date

  • March 9, 2018