Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics Theses

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Submitted to the Program of Organizational Dynamics, College of Liberal and Professional Studies in the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania

Advisor: Dana Kaminstein, Ph.D.


The purpose of this capstone is to examine how leaders influence the motivation of those they lead during times of uncertainty. Based on a review of the academic literature on motivation and leadership, I identified six categories of manager behavior linked to employee motivation: autonomy, building competence, communication, facilitating meaning, showing empathy and providing support. I sought to examine if there was a relationship between each category of behavior and employee self-reports of motivation. A mixed-methods approach was taken, gathering survey responses from 203 individuals, supplemented by a qualitative approach conducting 10 in depth interviews.

Based on statistical analysis of data from completed surveys and thematic coding of interview transcripts, I concluded that manager behavior can and does have a notable impact on employee motivation. Manager behavior that builds employee competence, facilitates the meaning of work, and provides pragmatic support is particularly influential in increasing or maintaining employee motivation. Manager behavior creating conditions of autonomy, demonstrating empathy, and entailing clear communication also positively impacts employees’ motivation for work, although less consistently. It was notable that these manager behaviors did not appear to affect employees’ perseverance or sense of immersion in their work. Additionally, manager behavior was more or less salient depending on situational factors for each employee. As such it contributed in different ways to employees’ feeling of motivation for work.


Employees Experience During COVID-19, Management During COVID-19, Employee Autonomy, Building Employee Competence, Supporting Employees, Leader Empathy, Leaders Facilitating Meaning



Date Posted: 28 October 2021