Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


School of Business

First Advisor

Dr. Paul Shelton, PhD

Second Advisor

Dr. Dirk Barram, PhD

Third Advisor

Dr. Kathy Milhauser, DBA


Utilizing self-determination theory as the foundational theory for this research, this study analyzes the potential relationship that exists between a U.S.-Based Pharmaceutical salesperson’s motivational orientation (intrinsic or extrinsic) and their sales performance. Sales performance in this study is defined by sales awards (President’s Club, sales rankings, 100% to goal, etc.). To build a foundation of understanding of motivational theory, various theories in addition to self-determination theory are explored in the literature review. The four motivational categories explored are: a) hedonic motivational theories, b) cognitive motivational theories, c) personal growth or actualization motivation theories, and d) self-determination theory. Self-determination theory is the foundational theory guiding this research due to its ability to differentiate between intrinsic (autonomous) and extrinsic (controlled) motivation. The two main research questions addressed in this dissertation include the following:

1. Do U.S.-Based Pharmaceutical Salespeople who are motivated intrinsically achieve annual sales awards and rank higher more frequently in their company (President’s Club, Top 50% Ranking, etc.) than those who are motivated extrinsically?

2. Do U.S.-Based Pharmaceutical Salespeople who are motivated extrinsically achieve annual sales awards and rank higher more frequently in their company (President’s Club, Top 50% Ranking, etc.) than those who are motivated intrinsically?

To measure salesperson motivational orientation, this research uses the General Causality Orientations Scale (GCOS) developed by Deci and Ryan (1985). The GCOS measures in depth three different motivational orientations of an individual, which are: a) autonomous, b) controlled, and c) impersonal. The GCOS is a 36-item scale with 12 questions fitting in the autonomous motivational orientation, 12 questions fitting in the controlled motivational orientation, and 12 questions fitting in the impersonal motivational orientation.

This survey was administered electronically to U.S.-Based Pharmaceutical salespeople in the United States. The survey was sent out to 173 pharmaceutical salespeople, of whom 109 completed the entire survey. These U.S.-Based Pharmaceutical salespeople were in the LinkedIn network of the study author.

The results of this study are important to the pharmaceutical industry and its management and salespeople for various reasons. The results of this study have implications for the hiring and management practices pharmaceutical companies utilize for their salespeople. If motivational orientation influences pharmaceutical salesperson performance, pharmaceutical companies will want to hire people with that specific motivational orientation (whether that be intrinsic or extrinsic). This can be done through pre-screening psychological exams that are part of the hiring process.

Also, management and leadership can better utilize certain motivational approaches depending on the motivational orientation (intrinsic or extrinsic) of a specific pharmaceutical salesperson. Knowing which motivational orientation leads to optimal results can help managers know which way is best for them to approach their salespeople in the pharmaceutical industry.

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