Playing It Safe for My Family: Exploring the Dual Effects of Family Motivation on Employee Productivity and Creativity. By: Zhang, Xin-an; Liao, Huiyao; Li, Ning; Colbert, Amy E. Academy of Management Journal. Dec2020, Vol. 63 Issue 6, p1923-1950. 28p.

Research has shown that family motivation exerts an energizing effect on employee performance. Challenging this, we argue that family motivation is a double-edged sword with both an energizing and a debilitating effect on employee performance, depending on the performance criterion in question. Specifically, drawing upon self-determination theory and the “hard work versus smart work” framework, we hypothesize that family motivation is positively related to employee productivity via enhanced work effort (i.e., energizing effect). However, family motivation also stimulates employees to see their jobs as a means to gain financial support for their family, rather than an end in itself, which is associated with lower levels of creativity (i.e., debilitating effect). We further propose that employees’ family motivation is higher when they experience higher levels of family financial pressure, and that financial pressure is more strongly related to family motivation for women than for men. We find support for our hypotheses in a sample of 187 low-wage, blue-collar workers and a sample of 439 relatively high-income, white-collar employees. We also conduct a qualitative study with 40 high-income employees; results provide a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which family motivation shapes perceptions of the job and subsequent behaviors and outcomes.