Howard Eric Kea, Ph.D. is a 2008 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Carol Baron, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Charles Seashore, Ph.D., Committee Member


engineers, NASA, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, work motivation, multiple regression, factor analysis, workplace, engineering profession, Hygiene Factors, 2 Factor Theory, scientists, government employees, African-Americans, women engineers

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Publication Date



NASA is an organization known for pushing the envelope of engineering and scientific achievement. It can be argued that engineers working for NASA are intrinsically highly motivated due to the nature of the work and the mission of NASA. This study explores how supervisor behaviors, both intrinsic and extrinsic and demographic factors influence motivation of NASA Goddard engineers in their current environment. Recent Congressional and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) policies, such as full cost accounting, levy strict oversight of project spending. As a result of these policies, NASA engineers must now focus their attention on getting assigned work on funded projects in addition to pursuing technical innovation and creativity. The literature is replete with previous studies on motivation of engineers and scientists. These studies investigated Maslow (1970), Vroom (1964), Herzberg (1971), and Deci’s (1975) theories of motivation. Today, the workplace is much more diverse with regard to race, gender, and age. A web-based survey was used to collect data from a sample of engineers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 260 out of 583 engineers responded to the survey. 238 cases provided useable data for analysis. A hierarchical regression analysis revealed the demographic categories of females and non-whites did not significantly predict the level of motivation of engineers. Age was a significant factor influencing motivation. The age group of 39 and under had less of an influence on motivation and the age group of 40 and over had more of an influence. The over 60 age group had a very significant positive influence on motivation. Other significant factors influencing motivation were: supervisor behaviors, intrinsic factors such as feedback and competence, and extrinsic factors such as benefits, rewards and promotions. The results support the argument that NASA engineers are motivated by getting feedback from their immediate project supervisor, that they feel competent in their jobs, and that the benefits, rewards, and promotions fairly reflect their contribution and loyalty to the mission of NASA. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,