Management control system design and employees’ autonomous motivation

Clara Xiaoling Chen, Jeremy B. Lill, Thomas W. Vance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using an online survey of 468 U.S. employees from diverse industries and professions, we provide empirical evidence that management control system design choices can affect autonomous motivation in employees. Drawing on self-determination theory and the levers of control framework, we predict and find that employee autonomous motivation is positively associated with the use of beliefs control systems and interactive control systems and negatively associated with the use of diagnostic control systems. Moreover, we find that the joint use of diagnostic and interactive controls is positively associated with autonomous motivation. We also find a positive association between employees’ autonomous motivation and individual self-reported effort, job performance, and creativity. Additional analyses examine the sources of motivation behind these results, focusing on identified motivation. The theory and results of our study provide a potential explanation for the recent trend in practice of organizations increasingly emphasizing their values and higher purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-91
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Management Accounting Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomous motivation
  • Levers of control
  • Management control systems
  • Motivation
  • Perceived locus of causality
  • Self-determination theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Accounting


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