Psychological Needs Thwarting and Sustainable Careers

Marianne Wooning, E.R.R. Peeters, M.C.J. Caniels, J.H. Semeijn

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterAcademic


Introduction and purpose: Sustainable careers can be defined as “sequences of career experiences reflected through a variety of patterns of continuity over time, thereby crossing several social spaces, characterized by individual agency, herewith providing meaning to the individual” (Van der Heijden & De Vos, 2015, p.7). This requires ongoing self-regulation; by pursuing needs and avoiding frustrations in a proactive and selective way with the aim to protect and promote one's development, well-being and productivity. According to the self-determination theory (SDT), individuals are intrinsically proactive, self-regulating and inherently inclined to development and integrated functioning. For optimal functioning, need satisfaction of the three basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness, is required. Failure to satisfy any of these needs will be manifested in diminished growth, integrity and well-being. Even worse, need thwarting is associated with greater ill-being and more impoverished functioning. SDT further states that psychological needs satisfactions and frustrations vary within persons, over time, context and social interactions. Factors or events, alone or in interaction, that generate variations in need satisfaction or frustration, will also produce variations in activity, self-regulation, and well-being. In line with SDT, it is useful in the context of sustainable careers, to study how personal and contextual events and changes, as well as their interconnectedness, over the life span, influence need satisfaction or frustration, and what consequences this has for activity, integration, and well-being towards sustainable careers. Therefore, this qualitative study explores how (non-)sustainable careers have developed over time, and which factors and their mutual relationships have influenced them. Design, Methodology and Results Data will be collected by means of semi-structured interviews with employees of a Dutch care organization. The results are expected in the winter of 2018. Qualitative content analyses will be applied. Discussion The results of this study can help to further understand the development of (non-)sustainable careers. The presented study is retrospective, which has as disadvantage that the reliability of memories is debatable. This study is to our knowledge the first to generate insights in personal and contextual factors over time, in relation to sustainable careers, grounded in self-determination theory, and may as such, offer relevant directions for further research on sustainable careers and SDT. Reference Van der Heijden, B.I.J.M., & De Vos, A. (2015). Sustainable careers: Introductory chapter. In A. De Vos, & B.I.J.M. Van Der Heijden (Eds.). Handbook of research on sustainable careers (pp. 1–19). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2019
EventSelf-Determination Theory Conference 2019 - VU Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 21 May 201924 May 2019
Conference number: 7


ConferenceSelf-Determination Theory Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleSDT 2019
Internet address


  • Careers
  • sustainable careers
  • psychological needs
  • Career development


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