The Effect of University Researchers’ Achievement Motivation on Job Achievement: The Mediating Role of Psychological Capital

Abstract

This paper discusses the effect of university researchers’ achievement motivation on job achievement and the mediating role of psychological capital from the perspective of psychology. A questionnaire was used to investigate the psychological capital, achievement motivation and job achievement of 300 university researchers. The result shows that the overall psychological capital, achievement motivation and job achievement of university researchers are relatively high in China. Age, the number of articles published in core journals, psychological capital and achievement motivation all affect professional achievement, among which achievement motivation can partially mediate the role of psychological capital in influencing job achievement.

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Zu, S. , Zhang, J. and Sun#, Y. (2021) The Effect of University Researchers’ Achievement Motivation on Job Achievement: The Mediating Role of Psychological Capital. Psychology, 12, 1529-1541. doi: 10.4236/psych.2021.1210096.

1. Introduction

The realization of job achievement can stimulate workers’ positive working attitude and professional responsibility, and tap their internal work potential. In foreign countries, the concept of job achievement has not been clearly defined and incorporated into the study of job burnout (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001). At present, the most widely used definition of teachers’ job achievement in China is proposed by Deng Rui: a kind of inner satisfaction obtained by teachers who give full play to their educational and teaching abilities and realize their self-value and social value in the teaching process (Deng & Wang, 2011). In practical work, college teachers not only have to undertake teaching work and scientific research work, but also some professional and technical teachers have to deal with office and administrative affairs in daily work, such as laboratory management, writing administrative documents and financial work. At the same time, in the talent introduction agreement signed by universities, teachers are required to be “promoted or left”, that is, if they fail to achieve certain scientific research achievements in five years, they will be dismissed. Therefore, teachers in universities should not only become professional talents, but also become versatile talents under great pressure. Understanding the overall situation and influencing factors of university workers’ job achievement in China will help to promote the improvement of their job achievement, so as to realize the fundamental task of foster good character and virtue of students.

Previous studies have found that achievement motivation is not only a psychological driving force to promote individual self-progress and the pursuit of success, but also an important regulatory factor of job burnout, and an internal motivation to promote workers’ autonomous learning and actively engage in innovative activities. Performance can be affected by the intermediary variable of self-efficacy (Sun, 2017; Yao & Ma, 2021). In the study of teachers’ job achievement, it is found that positive psychological quality can play a positive role, and psychological capital is one of the important sources of workers’ sustainable competitive advantage (Pang, Yang, & Xian, 2019; Pan & Zhu, 2017). In 2004, Luthans et al. put forward the concept of positive psychological capital, referred to as psychological capital, based on the point of view of positive psychology and organizational behavior (Luthans, Luthans, & Luthans, 2004). In 2009, Ke Jianglin put forward the connotation of psychological capital suitable for Chinese organizational context, that is, an individual has a measurable, exploitable and positive mentality or psychological ability to promote work performance in the process of dealing with people, and divided psychological capital into two dimensions: transactional psychological capital and interpersonal psychological capital (Ke, Sun, & Li, 2009).

At present, colleges and universities pay more attention to the human capital such as the educational background, scientific research and teaching ability of workers in the process of introducing, cultivating, evaluating and motivating teachers, while ignoring the important role of psychological capital in the teaching and research of them. Therefore, understanding the current situation and development of psychological capital of university researchers will help to stimulate their positive psychological quality and potential, and then improve their ability of teaching and scientific research, and enhance the ability of sustainable development of universities. Previous studies on university personnel from the perspective of psychology generally take university teachers, especially full-time teachers, as the main research objects, and pay less attention to scientific research workers. Nowadays, more and more young highly educated people in colleges and universities in China have gradually become the main force of scientific researchers, while the field of psychology still needs to supplement the research on the job achievement of university researchers. To sum up, this study selects two psychological factors, achievement motivation and psychological capital, to explore their impact on the job achievement of university researchers, and then provide effective suggestions for the selection of excellent talents and the management of teaching staff in scientific research from the psychological perspective.

2. Research Objects and Methods

2.1. Research Objects

Questionnaires were distributed to researchers in colleges and universities across the country and their peers were invited to help forward the questionnaire. In addition to full-time scientific researchers, the research objects include administrative personnel, full-time teachers, professional and technical personnel involved in scientific research.

The online questionnaire was distributed randomly, and the subjects were asked to fill in the questionnaire voluntarily. A total of 303 questionnaires were collected, of which 300 were valid.

2.2. Research Methods

2.2.1. Local Psychological Capital Questionnaire

The Psychological Capital Questionnaire (PCQ) adopts the Short Version of Local Psychological Capital Questionnaire made by Chinese scholars Ke Jianglin et al. The internal consistency coefficient of the questionnaire is 0.9, including two dimensions: transactional psychological capital and interpersonal psychological capital. Transactional psychological capital includes four sub-dimensions: confidence, hope, enterprise and resiliency. Interpersonal psychological capital also includes four dimensions, tolerance, respect, modesty and dedication. Five items for each sub-dimension, for a total of 40 items. All items were measured on a six-point scale that the higher the level of psychological capital.

2.2.2. Achievement Motivation Scale

Achievement Motivation Scale (AMS) was used to investigate achievement motivation, which was compiled by psychologists Gjesme and Rnygard. Translated by Ye Renmin et al., the Chinese version of AMS was tested and revised for domestic samples (Ye & Hagtvet, 1992). There are 30 questions of two sections. Each section has 15 questions, which respectively measures motivation to pursue success (Ms) and motivation to avoid failure (Mf). The AMS is a 4-point Likert-type format. The total AMS score is calculated by the sum of the scores of Ms minus those of Mf (Ms-Mf). The higher the score, the stronger the achievement motivation. When achievement motivation score is positive (>0), individuals tend to pursue success; when the score is negative (<0), individuals tend to avoid failure; when the score is zero, the individual is occupied by ambivalence, wanting to pursue success but afraid of failure.

2.2.3. Job Achievement Scale

Since there is no special scale for measuring job achievement in China, many studies use the dimensions of self-achievement in the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) as a measurement tool for job achievement (Li, 2017). Maslach developed the MBI, which is a 22-item self-rated 4-point Likert-type Scale that load onto the three factor structure mentioned above: emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP), and personal accomplishment (PA). Existing studies show that the scale has high homogeneity reliability and construct validity, and the correlation coefficient between all items and their factors is above 0.50.

3. Research Results

3.1. Basic Information of Research Object

A total of 300 valid questionnaires were collected, including 132 males and 168 females, 118 from regular colleges and 182 from key university and higher vocational colleges. The posts include administrative personnel, professional and technical personnel, auxiliary teachers, full-time teachers and postdocs.

3.2. Current Situation and Related Results of Psychological Capital, Achievement Motivation and Job Achievement of University Researchers

Among the psychological capital scores of the researchers involved in the survey, the transactional psychological capital score was significantly higher than interpersonal psychological capital score, and the achievement motivation score of the pursuit of success was significantly higher than the motivation score of the avoidance of failure (showing in Table 1).

3.3. The Correlation between Basic Information and Psychological Capital, Achievement Motivation and Job Achievement of University Researchers

Among the basic personal factors of university researchers, there is a significant negative correlation between educational background, the number of articles published in core journals and the job achievement. Among the psychological factors,

There is a significant negative correlation between psychological capital and job achievement, a significant positive correlation between achievement motivation and job achievement, and a significant negative correlation between psychological capital and achievement motivation (showing in Table 2).

3.4. The Mediating Role of Basic Psychological Capital of University Researchers in the Effect of Achievement Motivation on Job Achievement

Achievement motivation had a significant positive effect on job achievement (β = 0.187, P = 0.001), psychological capital had a significant negative effect on job achievement (β = −0.217, P = 0.006), and career motivation had a significant negative effect on psychological capital (β = −0.379, P = 0.000).

Table 1. Results of psychological capital, achievement motivation and job achievement (n = 300).

Note: * meansP < 0.05, ** means P < 0.01.

Table 2. Correlation analysis results of researchers’ basic information, psychological capital, achievement motivation and Job achievement Score (r).

Note: * means P < 0.05, ** means P < 0.01.

The achievement motivation is divided into two dimensions: the motivation to pursue success and the motivation to avoid failure. It is found that the motivation to pursue success has a significant positive effect on job achievement (β = 0.327, P = 0.000), and the motivation to pursue success has a significant negative effect on psychological capital (β = −0.213, P = 0.004). The motivation to avoid failure had no significant effect on job achievement (β = 0.072, P = 0.347), while the motivation to avoid failure had a significant positive effect on psychological capital (β = 0.309, P = 0.000) (showing in Table 3, Figures 1-3).

Table 3. Standardized model results.

Note: * means P < 0.05, ** means P < 0.01.

Figure 1. The mediating model of psychological capital between achievement motivation and job achievement. Note: cm: career motivation, pc: psychological capital, ja: job achievement.

Figure 2. The mediating model of psychological capital between the motive to pursue success and job achievement. Note: ms: motive to achieve success, pc: psychological capital, ja: job achievement.

Figure 3. The mediating model of psychological capital between motive to avoid failure and job achievement. Note: mf: motive to avoid failure, pc: psychological capital, ja: job achievement.

In conclusion, psychological capital as a mediator partly mediated the relationship between career motivation and job achievement, bootstrap 95% CI = [0.029, 0.161], some mediating effects are significant. Psychological capital is a partial mediator between the motive to achieve success and job achievement, bootstrap 95% CI = [0.012, 0.125], part of the intermediary role is significant. Psychological capital played a full mediating role in the relationship between motive to avoid failure and job achievement, bootstrap 95% CI = [−0.156, −0.057]). Therefore, psychological capital plays a partial mediating role between career motivation and job achievement, a partial mediating role between the motive to pursue success and job achievement, and a full mediating role between the motive to avoid failure and job achievement.

4. Discussion

4.1. Analysis on the Current Situation and Influencing Factors of Psychological Capital

Previous studies have shown that the psychological capital level of teachers in local universities and vocational colleges is relatively optimistic (Wang, 2107; Han & Li, 2014). The results of this study show that the overall psychological capital level of university researchers is relatively high, which is consistent with the results of most relevant domestic studies. In the dimension of psychological capital, the transactional capital of researchers is significantly higher than that of interpersonal capital. Transactional psychological capital includes 4 sub-dimensions: confidence, hope, enterprise and resiliency. Interpersonal psychological capital also includes 4 dimensions, tolerance, respect, modesty and dedication. These are traditional interpersonal colors with obvious Chinese cultural characteristics (Lei & Wang, 2015). In a large sample of Chinese employees, age, gender, educational background and working years all significantly affect the level of psychological capital. Among university teachers, psychological capital has significant differences in gender, professional title, educational background, working time and major. With the improvement of educational background, the level of professional psychological ability of university teachers also shows an upward trend (Li, 2013; Li, 2010). The results of this study show that among the personal background factors of university researchers, education, the number of articles published in core journals and professional titles are significantly positively correlated with the level of psychological capital, which is consistent with other studies.

Generally, the higher the educational background of university researchers and the more high-quality articles published, the higher the professional title. On the one hand, this result may be related to the work content and development channels of various posts in colleges and universities. Undergraduates and masters often undertake administrative management, teaching assistance and other technical posts in colleges and universities, while doctors generally serve as full-time teachers or full-time scientific researchers. For non-full-time workers, they often need to face more complicated, high-load, long-term repetition and flexible interpersonal work, which makes them more prone to impatience, laziness and boredom. Due to energy occupation and psychological exhaustion at work, they do not have enough energy to invest in personal learning and growth, resulting in limited promotion opportunities in their own professional and technical fields and lack of self-worth, which reduces the level of psychological capital. For full-time researchers and teachers, their works focus on scientific research and teaching. More time and energy is more likely to bring academic or technical achievements, so as to help them realize their professional ideals and rank promotion. Therefore, the level of psychological capital is higher than that of non-full-time staff. On the other hand, it may be due to their different roles and positions in colleges and universities. One of the important tasks of colleges and universities is talent cultivation, and teachers and researchers are the core to achieve this function, but also the decisive force to promote the core competitiveness of colleges and universities. Therefore, they will receive more attention, higher salary, stronger work confidence and motivation, higher psychological capital level. However, non-full-time staff may have large mobility, and their responsibilities in colleges and universities focus on maintaining normal work or service work, which is not highly valued, resulting in a lack of professional honor and expectation, and a low level of psychological capital.

4.2. Analysis on the Current Situation and Influencing Factors of Achievement Motivation

The achievement motivation of university researchers is at the upper middle level. The motive to pursue success is significantly higher than the motive to avoid failure. The professional title and psychological capital are significantly negatively correlated with the achievement motivation. The motive to pursue success of men is significantly higher than that of women. The number of articles published in non-core journals, professional title and psychological capital are significantly positively correlated with the motive to avoid failure. In terms of gender, the results of previous studies are consistent with the results of this study. Men’s motivation for pursuing success is significantly higher than that of women (Zhang, 2018). This is related to the role pressure. Men often face more social expectation pressure and need to play the role of decision-maker and responsible person, while women play more supportive roles. Therefore, among scientific researchers, men have stronger achievement motivation than women and hope to make more outstanding achievements in the field of scientific research (Li & Yao, 2017).

According to Atkinson, people who strive for success are more persistent in their work. Even if they encounter setbacks, they will redouble their efforts due to their lack of efforts, and the outstanding achievements thus achieved will in turn enhance their desire for success, so the two are mutually causal (Wang & Zhang, 2015). People who avoid failure have lower levels of motivation after a setback, and tend to avoid the frustration of failure by choosing easier or extremely difficult tasks. Publishing in non-core journals is a relatively easy task for researchers to avoid the frustration of failure. The higher the professional title, the higher the psychological capital, but the lower the achievement motivation. The higher the social status of scientific researchers, the greater the pressure on their scientific research tasks and roles, and they are more inclined to avoid the risk of failure. At the same time, due to the protection of self-worth (Peng & Li, 2013), the higher the social status, the stronger the sense of self-esteem, they are more inclined to maintain their own value and avoid frustration and negative evaluation. In addition, some workers with higher professional titles have often completed a large number of scientific research tasks and reached the ideal level of professional titles, so the achievement motivation is reduced.

4.3. Analysis of Current Situation and Influencing Factors of Job Achievement

The academic degree and psychological capital of university researchers are negatively correlated with the job achievement, while the professional title and achievement motivation, especially the motive of pursuing success are positively correlated with the job achievement.

In a study based on the job achievement of different types of middle school teachers in 28 provinces and autonomous regions in China, it was found that gender, teaching subject, position, teaching age, professional title, working time, annual income and honorary title have a significant impact on the job achievement of teachers (Deng, 2013), which is consistent with the results of our study. The job achievement of those aged 51 - 60 is significantly higher than that of those aged 31 - 40, and the job achievement of those with high titles is significantly higher than that of those with primary, intermediate and deputy high titles. The professional titles of university researchers are often positively correlated with their age, and those with higher professional titles tend to have higher support and achievements, resulting in a stronger sense of job achievement. However, among the academic factors, those with bachelor’s degree have a significantly higher job achievement than those with doctor’s degree. This may be because most of the scientific researchers with bachelor’s degree in colleges and universities are older workers who have been employed earlier, while most of the doctors are young workers who have been introduced as talents. So this is also consistent with the influence of age and professional title on the job achievement. Achievement motivation has a significant positive prediction effect on the overall performance of scientific research activities, and achievement motivation has a significant positive prediction effect on the three levels of scientific research activities, that is research objectives, research investment and research performance (Zhao, 2018). Therefore, high achievement motivation can promote the active development of scientific research activities and enhance the job achievement through scientific research achievements. In addition, in today’s colleges and universities, many scientific researchers need to undertake administrative affairs such as student management and scientific research fund management (Li, 2008). According to some investigations, people who undertake certain administrative work are more likely to show emotional exhaustion (Wang, 2016). The increasing pressure of scientific research and the burden of administrative affairs will lead to job burnout and reduce the sense of achievement of scientific research workers.

4.4. The Mediating Role of Psychological Capital between Achievement Motivation and Job Achievement

Taking achievement motivation as the independent variable, psychological capital as the mediating variable and job achievement as the dependent variable, this study constructs the mediating role model of psychological capital between achievement motivation and job achievement (Morrison, Morrison, & McCutcheon, 2017). The results of the mediation test show that psychological capital plays a partial mediating role between achievement motivation and job achievement. In different dimensions of achievement motivation, psychological capital plays a partial mediating role between the motive to pursue success and job achievement, and a full mediating role between the motive to avoid failure and job achievement.

The results show that achievement motivation contributes to the improvement of job achievement. However, when the psychological capital of university researchers is improved after they have achieved certain job achievements, the achievement motivation is also reduced because of the mentality of seeking stability, and the accumulated work pressure leads to the decrease of job achievement.

5. Inspiration and Prospect

5.1. Attention Should Be Paid to the Cultivation of Psychological Quality of University Researchers

University administrators should pay full attention to the development of teachers’ psychological capital, not only actively introduce the talents, but also give importance to their follow-up training. Firstly, attention should be paid to the cultivation of psychological capital level of researchers, especially young workers. Psychological capital is a dynamic psychological resource, and individual psychological capital level can be improved or changed through intervention. As the knowledge workers, scientific researchers have high independence and pay more attention to the continuous learning and innovation. Therefore, this group has stronger plasticity of psychological capital. Psychological capital can play a virtuous circle in the formation of individual positive internal drive and the improvement of self-efficacy. So in the practical work can through the trade union, school mental health education center, teacher development and other related functional departments to strengthen the teachers’ mental health services, organize activities of various psychological decompression, such as micro lectures, counseling, psychological group, psychological experience enhance psychological capital, so as to relieve tired feeling, enhance achievement motivation. Secondly, to strengthen the protection of young scientific researchers’ achievement motivation, we can protect the continuity of their external motivation through job evaluation and reward, and promote their internal achievement motivation through career honor education. The combination of internal and external factors can promote their continuous improvement and maintain their positive work enthusiasm, strengthen their career sense of achievement, and better devote themselves to their work. Finally, attention should be paid to the achievement motivation stimulated by the long-term scientific researchers, and there may be a low level of psychological capital between the ages of 30 - 40 (Jiang, 2013). For workers who have made certain scientific research achievements, their achievement motivation will gradually decline, and job burnout will occur with the change of length of service. Therefore, we should pay more attention to the training of scientific research workers at this stage, understand and support the workers who encounter the bottleneck of career development, provide more channels for development and promotion, enhance their sense of value through the form of pairing of young and middle-aged workers, stimulate innovative energy with new ideas, and constantly radiate new enthusiasm into their work.

5.2. The Professional Living Environment of University Researchers Needs to Be Improved

Living environment is an important factor to guarantee psychological capital and job achievement. Today’s society has formed a good atmosphere of respecting teachers and valuing education. Teachers’ professional development has been valued and recognized, but the attention to university researchers needs to be improved.

To sum up, university managers should pay more attention to the psychological concerns of scientific researchers and improve their professional living environment, enhance their psychological capital, achievement motivation and sense of professional achievement. The university researchers should be built into a professional team with strong ability and hard quality, and colleges and universities should be regarded as the center of science and the highland of innovation.

Funding

Supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. 21618806).

NOTES

*First Author.

#Corresponding author.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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