Impact and the art of motivation maintenance: The effects of contact with beneficiaries on persistence behavior

Adam M. Grant, Elizabeth M. Campbell, Grace Chen, Keenan Cottone, David Lapedis, Karen Lee

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343 Scopus citations


We tested the hypothesis that employees are willing to maintain their motivation when their work is relationally designed to provide opportunities for respectful contact with the beneficiaries of their efforts. In Experiment 1, a longitudinal field experiment in a fundraising organization, callers in an intervention group briefly interacted with a beneficiary; callers in two control groups read a letter from the beneficiary and discussed it amongst themselves or had no exposure to him. One month later, the intervention group displayed significantly greater persistence and job performance than the control groups. The intervention group increased significantly in persistence (142% more phone time) and job performance (171% more money raised); the control groups did not. Experiments 2 and 3 used a laboratory editing task to examine mediating mechanisms and boundary conditions. In Experiment 2, respectful contact with beneficiaries increased persistence, mediated by perceived impact. In Experiment 3, mere contact with beneficiaries and task significance interacted to increase persistence, mediated by affective commitment to beneficiaries. Implications for job design and work motivation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-67
Number of pages15
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by a Grant to the first author from the National Science Foundation and the American Psychological Association Early Research Award to the first author. For helpful feedback on previous drafts, we are grateful to Associate Editor Jerald Greenberg, three anonymous reviewers, Jane Dutton, Fiona Lee, Andy Molinsky, Rick Price, Lilach Sagiv, Margaret Shih, and Allison Sweet. We also appreciate comments on presentations from Sue Ashford, Ruth Blatt, Tom Britt, Kim Cameron, Marlys Christianson, Kathryn Dekas, Noah Eisenkraft, Dan Gruber, Emily Heaphy, Mike Pratt, Ryan Quinn, Brent Rosso, Vera Sacharin, Scott Sonenshein, Gretchen Spreitzer, John Paul Stephens, Kathie Sutcliffe, Jen Tosti, Wendy Treynor, and Amy Wrzesniewski. For assistance in study designs and data collection, we thank Charlotte Burns, Andy and Stephen Bush, Wes Clark, Will Fogel, Howard Heevner, Alex Jaffe, Emily Kidston, Jordan Powell, Karen Zynda, and members of the Impact Lab, the May Meaning Meeting, and the Michigan Organizational Psychology and Management and Organizations Brown Bags.

Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Contact with beneficiaries
  • Job design
  • Relationships in organizations
  • Work motivation and persistence


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