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Revista Psicologia Organizações e Trabalho

versão On-line ISSN 1984-6657

Rev. Psicol., Organ. Trab. vol.17 no.4 Brasília out.-dez. 2017 

Decent work and work motivation in lawyers: an empirical research


Trabalho digno e motivação para o trabalho em advogados: uma pesquisa empírica


Trabajo decente y motivación para el trabajo de los abogados: una investigación empírica



Tânia FerraroI; Nuno Rebelo dos SantosII; Leonor PaisI; João Manuel MoreiraIII

IUniversidade de Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
IIUniversidade de Évora, Évora, Portugal
IIIUniversidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal

Endereço para correspondência




This study aimed for better understanding of the effect of decent work on work motivation in lawyers in Portugal and Brazil (N = 611). The Decent Work Questionnaire (DWQ) and Multidimensional Work Motivation Scale (MWMS) were applied. The results of analysis of the canonical correlations showed the presence of two operating mechanisms (two significant canonical correlations). They suggest that fulfilling-and-productive-work is associated positively with intrinsic-and-identified-work-motivation and negatively with amotivation. It was also observed that an adequate working-time/workload is negatively associated with material-extrinsic-motivation (such as money). Summarizing, the results suggest that decent work, especially some of its dimensions, has an important role in promoting work motivation through two main mechanisms, the first one called 'worthy working life as part of being a citizen in society' and the second one called 'contextual life comfort and committed effort'. Limitations and practical implications conclude this article.

Key-words: Decent Work Questionnaire; Canonical correlations.


O presente estudo objetivou uma melhor compreensão dos efeitos do trabalho digno sobre a motivação para o trabalho em advogados de Portugal e do Brasil (N = 611). Foram aplicados o Questionário de Trabalho Digno e a Escala Multidimensional de Motivação para o Trabalho. Os resultados da análise das correlações canônicas evidenciaram dois mecanismos significativos atuantes. Elas sugerem que o trabalho realizante e produtivo está associado positivamente às motivações para o trabalho intrínseca e identificada e negativamente à desmotivação. Adicionalmente, observou-se que um adequado tempo/carga de trabalho se encontra negativamente associado à motivação extrínseca material (como dinheiro). Em resumo, os resultados sugerem que o trabalho digno, especialmente algumas de suas dimensões, tem um papel importante na promoção da motivação para o trabalho através de dois mecanismos principais, designados: 'vida de trabalho digna como parte de ser um cidadão na sociedade' e o segundo 'uma situação de vida confortável e esforços empenhados'. As limitações e implicações práticas concluem este artigo.

Palavras-chave: correlações canônicas; Questionário de Trabalho digno.


El presente estudio objetivó una mejor comprensión de los efectos del trabajo decente sobre la motivación para el trabajo de los abogados de Portugal y Brasil (N = 611). Se aplicaron el Cuestionario-del-Trabajo-Digno y la EscalaMultidimensional-de-Motivación-para-el-Trabajo. Los resultados del análisis de las correlaciones canónicas evidenció la presencia de dos mecanismos actuantes significativos. Estos sugieren que el trabajo-realizante-y-productivo está asociado positivamente a las motivaciones-intrínseca-e-identificada para el trabajo y negativamente a la desmotivación. Adicionalmente, se observó que un tiempo/carga-de-trabajo-adecuado se encuentra negativamente asociado a la motivación-extrínseca-material (como el dinero). En resumen, los resultados sugieren que el trabajo decente, especialmente algunas de sus dimensiones, tienen un papel importante en la promoción de la motivación para el trabajo a través de dos mecanismos principales, llamados: 'vida laboral digna, parte de ser un ciudadano en sociedad' y el segundo 'situación de vida confortable y esfuerzo empeñado'. Las limitaciones e implicaciones prácticas concluyen este artículo.

Palabras-clave: correlaciones canónicas; Cuestionario de Trabajo Decente.



The present study aims to identify, describe and interpret the main mechanisms that explain the effect of Decent Work (DW; International Labour Organization, 1999; Ferraro, Pais, & dos Santos, 2015) on work motivation (Gagné & Deci, 2005). That aim was pursued applying canonical correlation analysis (CCA; Tabachnick & Fidell, 2014; Thompson, 2005) since this technique allows examination of relationships among sets of variables and a description of the main latent mechanisms.

A long history was covered until the emergence of the concept of DW in 1999, at the International Labour Conference (ILC). Its roots are found in the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and the foundation of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and it has received several contributions from the actions and efforts developed by both the ILO and the United Nations (UN; Ferraro, dos Santos, Pais, & Mónico, 2016a; ILO, 1944; UN, 2000a, 2000b, 2015).

The Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology (WOPP) perspective is taking its first steps in approaching the DW concept (Ferraro, Pais, dos Santos, & Moreira, 2016b). This contributes to a new level of analysis - individual and subjective - different from those which have been traditional in the ILO approaches. That novelty enriches the previous knowledge on this subject achieved through other levels of analysis and contributes to redesigning human resource management policies and practices. The inclusion of a new WOPP framework about DW with a micro-level approach, taking into account the worker's experience, can enrich knowledge about this issue and open new possibilities of operationalization, new human resource practices, new interventions in work (re)design and new ways of thinking about the formal and informal labour/job market.

Based on the DW concept proposed by ILO (1999), Ferraro et al. (2016b) developed an instrument which measures the perceptions of Decent Work, and found a second order factor named Global DW, which concentrated the perspective of a kind of work based on "fair inclusiveness" (Sachs, 2004, p. 168-171) dedicated to an inclusive development as opposed to exclusion (of consumer market) and concentration (of wealth or income). Decent Work refers to meaningful work and ethics that ensure fundamental values and principles at work through social dialogue among those involved in the decision-making processes regarding that work. Decent Work also leads to openness to professional and personal development through creation of job/work/professional opportunities (in quantity and quality), social protection through caring (attention) and by law (respecting the work-life balance, health and safety conditions). Moreover, seven dimensions of DW emerged in data analysis. These dimensions are: (a) Fundamental principles and values at work, the first dimension of Decent Work corresponding to people's perception of being respected, accepted, fairly treated and having a voice within a trustful climate; (b) Adequate working time and workload, measuring the balance between working time, time for family and personal life, and workload; (c) Fulfilling and productive work measuring workers' perception that their work is productive (providing a feeling of competence) and pleasurable through the fulfilment that comes from accomplishing work; (d) Meaningful retribution for the exercise of citizenship, measuring earnings while allowing autonomy and independence to be a citizen; (e) Social protection, measuring social security (whether private or public) that provides workers and their families with protection in retirement, illness and unemployment; (f) Opportunities measuring perception of the possibility of improved earnings, professional development and the freedom to choose alternative work; (g) Health and safety, measuring working conditions regarding physical health and security or a safe working environment (Ferraro, Pais, Moreira, & dos Santos, 2017). Item examples are presented in the instruments section.

The legal framework of DW adopted by the ILO is a macro-level perspective to approach this concept. The ILO internal modus operandi includes proceedings and reports, databases (international and national laws), employment or labour protection legislation, labour jurisdictions (representatives of concerns and political agreements). All these documents correspond to an established framework consensus that allows further advances in action. This strong presence of laws, regulations and formal documents demonstrates that lawyers have been crucial in developing the DW concept.

Considering the micro-level of analysis, i.e., from a psychological perspective, our study is new in focusing on lawyers' perception of their own work (as decent/worthy or not). Previous macro-level DW approaches were focused on undifferentiated workers, those with fewer qualifications and regarded as more vulnerable and subject to exploitation (United Nations Development Program, 2014).

In the present study we choose to pay attention to lawyers, since these professionals are requested to participate in social dialogue and decent work promotion. By studying DW in this profession we are contributing to understanding of the whole picture. They are professionals who are intensively dedicated to creating, sharing and using legal knowledge in their work (knowledge-intensive work), which therefore requires high levels of education, expertise and/or experience, i.e., knowledge workers (Davenport, 2005; Forstenlechner & Lettice, 2007).

Considering law practice, three emerging crises were described by Daicoff (1997): "'professionalism' has declined, public opinion of attorneys and the legal profession has plummeted, and lawyer dissatisfaction and dysfunction have increased" (p. 1340). Since then, the problem has become worse and worse. Concerning working conditions it is possible to observe "the reduction in the number of workers in regular (wage) employment as compared with the number of those who working under precarious contracts - workers who are legally independent but economically fragile or 'parasubordinate'" (Servais, 2004, p. 204) and lawyers do not seem to be immune to this situation. Forstenlechner and Lettice (2008) presented a case study (based on application of a survey and interviews) in which they studied the career and job expectations and motivation of young lawyers beginning work in a specific law firm and if these are being met ("one of the top five law firms in the world", Forstenlechner & Lettice, 2008, p. 641). They highlighted the effects of globalization on law firms, such as the requirement of new kinds of specializations to deal with a greater diversity of work. In addition, a continuously changing environment in which each company operates increases the pressure on lawyers and their preparation for job performance. Berney (1995) affirmed that "Lawyers are therefore faced with more decision making and less time, which is resulting in increased levels of specialization. This was leading to longer working hours and different working structures" (p. 253).

Eleven years later, Lopes (2016) highlights that "Law firms face challenges related to globalization and client pressures for increased quality at lower rates" (p. 225). Forstenlechner and Lettice (2008) listed as key challenges for law companies: the pressure to maximize "billable hours1, a lack of prospects and poor working conditions" (p. 642) and considered "the more aggressive headcount management as a buffer for labour cost flexibility. Once support staff have been reduced to the absolute minimum, salaried fee earners are likely to become the next buffer for labour cost flexibility" (p. 643).

In sum, they assumed that "there is a degree of consensus that large law firms have a reputation for being tough places to work" (p. 643). They found that the key motives for junior lawyers choosing to join a law firm "were money and improved career options" (p. 640) and consider that these expectations were commonly met. However, "these lawyers were disappointed by a lack of interaction with and appreciation from partners, high pressure to bill more, long working hours and poor work/life balance, a lack of interesting work, and a lack of international secondments" (Forstenlechner & Lettice, 2008, p. 640).

This changing context and all the requirements for performing the role lead to asking to what extent the DW criteria are met in the current lawyer profession. We do not focus on lawyers' personality characteristics but on their perception of their own work. Boon (2005) highlighted lawyers' expectations of making a contribution to social justice. The perception that they are not contributing as much as they would like is a source of dissatisfaction in the legal profession. Since the decent work concept was proposed to involve all kinds of work and workers (ILO, 1999, 2001), and considering the context described, application of the DW concept to lawyers is particularly timely and this is coherent and in line with these professionals' wishes. Additionally, increasingly 'lean' organizations "(...) and the need to develop client relationships places a premium on a modern [law] business focus. This involves employing self-motivated individuals who are creative and adept at personal relationships and therefore able to attract and keep business" (Boon, 2005, p. 245), knowing the characteristics of their work (with tasks that require high levels of motivation), we consider work motivation as another highly relevant issue to analyze.

Previous study (Ferraro et al., 2017) showed the important role of DW as a predictor of work motivation for knowledge workers in general. The work motivation of lawyers is an under-researched topic so far. The current study aims to contribute to filling this gap by focusing on the relationship between DW and work motivation in those workers. Apart from lawyers' expected role in promoting DW, no research was found studying DW in these professionals.

In the present study work motivation is approached from the theoretical framework of Self-Determination Theory (SDT). This perspective proposes that work motivation is a multidimensional concept (Gagné & Deci, 2005). People are viewed as having three basic psychological needs considered universal for well-being and self-development: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Autonomy is self-governance (Ryan & Deci, 2000), the freedom to follow inner interests or the feeling of the perceived locus of causality as internal (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Competence is the feeling to be able to deal with challenges (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009). Relatedness (or feeling relational support and belongingness) represents the need to receive and provide support in relationships with others and interact and be involved with people (Deci & Ryan, 2014; Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Workers strive for the satisfaction of these basic psychological needs within their social context (e.g., work; Deci & Ryan, 2008, 2014; Deci et al., 2001; Fernet, Gagné, & Austin, 2010; Gagné & Forest, 2008; Ilardi, Leone, Kasser, & Ryan, 1993; Lynch, Plant, & Ryan, 2005). Gagné and Vansteenkiste (2013) highlight that "individual factors have not been extensively studied within the SDT framework [...]" (p. 76). This is true not only regarding the social contextual factors that influence work motivation and its outcomes, but also individual differences that might impact on perception of the work environment.

SDT proposes a model operationalized in six different types of work motivation: Amotivation, or lack of motivation; extrinsic material work motivation corresponding to work motivation anchored in the material consequences of working (e.g., money); extrinsic social work motivation, which is work motivation based on avoidance of social punishment and the pursuit of positive appraisal; introjected work motivation, when an inner pressure exists to accomplish work, as is the case in feelings of guilt or obligation; identified work motivation, when the meaning of work is closely related to its value, as is the case of an individual who considers their work as very important for society; and intrinsic work motivation when the work and tasks are interesting and pleasurable (Gagné & Deci, 2005; Gagné et al., 2015). Going from extrinsic work motivation to the last one described, work motivation becomes more and more autonomous, meaning the individual feels they are the origin of their drive to work instead of being driven by an external pressure.

Each different type of work motivation could occur with a varying level of intensity in each worker and the professional context contributes to promoting (or hindering) different types of work motivation (Gagné et al., 2015). Accordingly, work motivation can be sustained by providing opportunities for workers to feel and develop their competence, autonomy and relation to others (Deci & Ryan, 2014; Gagné & Deci, 2005, 2014). On the contrary, when they are thwarted, workers show more externally controlled types of motivation or become amotivated (Deci & Ryan, 2014).

Although Ferraro et al. (2017) found a significant effect of DW dimensions on knowledge workers' work motivation, that effect is complex since both constructs have several dimensions. Therefore, it is worth seeking the general main effects that can synthetize the complexity brought about by analyzing each pair of dimensions. Canonical correlation analysis fulfils that purpose since it shows the main overall mechanisms that function in relating both constructs.




Our sample is composed of lawyers from Portugal (n = 343) and Brazil (n = 268). Data collection took place between August 2015 and July 2016, as part of a research project focusing on the work experience of Knowledge Workers (KW). Demographic characteristics of the sample are presented in Table 1.



The inclusion criteria to be a participant were: (a) a minimum of six months of work experience; (b) being professionally active (unemployed and retired lawyers are excluded); and (c) receiving monetary compensation for work carried out.

Data collection procedures and ethical considerations

Participants were recruited through professional associations, or when professional associations were not found, through professionals' public email addresses on institutional websites, by sending an invitation which included a link to the online survey. Since all questions were mandatory and it was not allowed to submit the questionnaire without replying to all items, there are no missing values. Before answering the questionnaire, all participants needed to read and mark a box confirming informed consent. The researchers' email addresses and phone numbers were provided for any question from respondents. This project was submitted to an Ethical Committee. The task required around 20 minutes.


Decent Work Questionnaire (DWQ). The Decent Work Questionnaire (Ferraro et al., 2016b - with 31 items) was developed to measure decent work dimensions of the work context from the perceptions of workers. It has been proposed and validated for both Portuguese and Brazilian populations (Ferraro et al., 2016b). It includes a global DW score and seven subscales: DW1 - Fundamental Principles and Values at Work (e.g., "I am free to think and express my opinions about my work"); DW2 - Adequate Working Time and Workload (e.g., "I consider the average number of hours that I work per day as adequate/appropriate"); DW3 - Fulfilling and Productive Work (e.g., "I consider the work I do as decent"); DW4 - Meaningful Retribution for the Exercise of Citizenship (e.g., "What I earn through my work allows me to live my life with dignity and independence"); DW5 - Social Protection [e.g., "I feel that I am protected if I become unemployed (unemployment insurance, government/social benefits, social programs, etc)"]; DW6 - Opportunities (e.g., "Currently, I think there are work/job opportunities for a professional like me"); and DW7 -Health and Safety [e.g., "Overall, environmental conditions in my work are safe and acceptable (temperature, noise, humidity, etc.)"]. Each item is answered on a labeled 5-point Likert scale from 1= "I do not agree" to 5 = "I completely agree". In the current study, the global score Cronbach alpha coefficient was .93 in the Portuguese sample, and .94 in the Brazilian sample. The Alpha coefficients for each DW sub-scale in the Portuguese sample were: .84 (DW1), .84 (DW2), .81 (DW3), .92 (DW4), .78 (DW5), .76 (DW6) and .80 (DW7); in the Brazilian sample: .87 (DW1), .89 (DW2), .86 (DW3), .93 (DW4), .81 (DW5), .77 (DW6) and .86 (DW7).

Multidimensional Work Motivation Scale (MWMS). The Multidimensional Work Motivation Scale (MWMS; Gagné et al., 2015) is a 19-item scale based on self-determination theory (Gagné & Deci, 2005). It is designed to measure different types of work motivation according to self-determination theory. It has been adapted and validated in Portugal and Brazil by dos Santos et al. (2017). The MWMS comprises six sub-scales: Amotivation, Extrinsic Material regulation, Extrinsic Social regulation, Introjected regulation, Identified regulation and Intrinsic motivation. Response options are on a labeled 7-point Likert scale from 1 = "Not at all" to 7 = "Completely". Following the stem "Why do you or would you put efforts into your current job?", a sample item is "Because the work I do is interesting". The six subscales' Cronbach alpha coefficients in the Portuguese sample were: .84 (amotivation), .79 (extrinsic material regulation), .91 (extrinsic social regulation), .85 (introjected regulation), .89 (identified regulation) and .91 (intrinsic motivation); in the Brazilian sample: .83 (amotivation), .81 (extrinsic material regulation), .90 (extrinsic social regulation), .83 (introjected regulation), .91 (identified regulation) and .92 (intrinsic motivation).



To study the relationship among the seven factors of DW and the six types of work motivation a canonical correlation analysis (CCA) was performed. We have multiple dependent and independent variables simultaneously observed and this is a typical case where this kind of analysis is the most indicated (Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1998). In the current research, the set of independent variables (or predictor set) was composed of DW factors, while the types of work motivation were considered as the set of dependent variables (or the criteria set; Kuylen & Verhallen, 1981). Although not often used, CCA simultaneously analyzes the two sets of variables rather than examining a large number of individual correlations, and for this the application of CCA is relevant in minimizing the Type I error rate (Sherry & Henson, 2005; Thompson, 2005). The assumptions of the normality test and analysis of outliers were performed following the guidelines of Hair et al. (1998), Meyer, Gamst and Guarino (2013) and Tabachnick and Fidell (2014). Our analyses were carried out using IBM SPSS Statistics version 22, with the addition of STATS CANCORR (an extension bundle from IBM SPSS, installed as part of IBM SPSS Statistics -Essentials for Python; IBM, 2015). To interpret significant canonical functions, we adopted the canonical loadings approach. This requires evaluation of the sign and magnitude of the structure canonical coefficients (also known as canonical loadings) in each set of variables and in each canonical variate (Hair et al., 1998; Dattalo, 2014). This analysis allowed us to explore the underlying relations between DW Factors and types of work motivation. The results are shown in Tables 2 and 4 for the Portuguese sample, and 3 and 5 for the Brazilian sample.





For each sample, two significant canonical functions were produced (see Table 2 for the Portuguese sample and Table 3 for the Brazilian sample). All of these canonical correlations attain non-trivial values (Rc values > .30), according to the recommendation of Pituch and Stevens (2016).

To attest the relevance of our canonical functions, we also consider other statistical indicators. First, we look at Wilk's l which, following Sherry and Henson (2005, p. 48): "represents the variance unexplained by the model, and thus 1 - l yields the full model effect size". In the Portuguese sample, the Wilk's l values indicates that the full model explains 51% of the variance shared between the two variable set. In the Brazilian sample, it explains 60% of the shared variance. For each canonical function, the percentage of shared variance tells us that, for the Portuguese sample, the first canonical function explains approximately 78% of the shared variance, with the second canonical function explaining an additional 12%. These two canonical functions together accumulate 90% of the explained variance. For the Brazilian sample, the first canonical function accounts for 80% of shared explained variance, and the second canonical function adds 14%. These two canonical functions accumulate 94% of the explained variance (values based on eigenvalues, Meyers et al., 2013). For each set of variables, in the first canonical function, for the Portuguese sample, DW factors explained approximately 41% of the variance of work motivation. For the Brazilian sample, DW factors explained 49% of the variance of work motivation. In the second canonical function, for the Portuguese sample, DW factors explained approximately 10% of the variance of work motivation. For the Brazilian sample, DW factors explained 14% of the variance of work motivation (see Tables 2 and 3, values based on R c2; Meyers et al., 2013).

The results suggest that the relationship between Decent Work dimensions and different types of work motivation are mostly explained by two main mechanisms, which interpretation of the canonical variate should elucidate. We present the two canonical variates for each sample in Tables 4 and 5. There, it is possible to observe the corresponding raw canonical coefficient (unstandardized coefficient), standardized coefficients (canonical weights), structure coefficients (canonical loadings) and cross loadings associated with each variable. Since there is no consensus among authors about the best or most adequate coefficients to consider in interpreting the canonical variates, we followed Hair et al. (1998) and Meyers et al. (2013). Accordingly, our interpretation is based on the highest values of the structure coefficients (canonical loadings). Despite Tabachnick and Fidell (2014) suggesting the use of a value of .30, we opted to use a more conservative value equal to or more than .45 (as Joo & Nimon, 2014), closer to common practice in factor analysis.

In the Portuguese sample, the first canonical function shows that within the DW factor set, high levels of Fulfilling and Productive Work (DW3), Opportunities (DW6), Fundamental Principles and Values at Work (DW1) and Meaningful Retribution for the Exercise of Citizenship (DW4) (in order of the magnitude of the structure coefficients) correlate positively (and strongly) with high levels of intrinsic and identified work motivation and negatively with amotivation (within the work motivation set).

In the Brazilian sample, the first canonical function presents the same dimensions already described for the Portuguese sample (presence of high loadings of DW1, DW3, DW4 and DW6) and additionally shows the presence of Adequate Working Time and Workload (DW2) within the DW dimension set. They relate positively to autonomous work motivation (identified and intrinsic) and negatively to amotivation. This first canonical function indicates that higher levels of these DW dimensions (slightly different between samples) promote autonomous work motivation and diminish amotivation.

The second canonical function for the Portuguese sample includes Adequate Working Time and Workload (DW2), Social Protection (DW5) and Meaningful Retribution for the exercise of Citizenship (DW4) within the DW factor set. The work motivation set includes external material work motivation. For the Portuguese lawyers, the presence of those three DW factors was negatively related to extrinsic material work motivation.

In the Brazilian sample, the second canonical correlation is also slightly different from that found in the Portuguese sample. The DW dimension set only includes Adequate Working Time and Workload (DW2). Social Protection (DW5) almost reaches our cut-off point of .45 (see Table 4, the value of .44), and Meaningful Retribution for the exercise of Citizenship (DW4) is not involved in this. DW2 shows an inverse relationship with material and social extrinsic work motivation.



The present study confirmed that DW affects lawyers' work motivation in both samples, following the previous study by Ferraro et al. (2017). That effect varies slightly between samples. Despite those differences, we found two general mechanisms underlying that effect of DW on work motivation.

The first canonical correlation function includes, as described in the previous section, a positive association of Fundamental Principles and Values at Work, Fulfilling and Productive Work, Meaningful Retribution for the Exercise of Citizenship and Adequate Working Time and Workload (this last one only in the Brazilian sample) with identified and intrinsic work motivation, and negatively associated with amotivation.

The underlying mechanism can be interpreted as an operating theory of a worthwhile, interesting and meaningful working life which is part of being a citizen in society. It corresponds to a way of looking at work as part of human fulfilment and not only as an instrumental activity to provide workers with retribution for later enjoyment, fruition or utilization. In this function, corresponding to the first canonical correlation, the individual gets involved in work as an important part of their identity as a human being. This last idea is stronger in the Brazilian sample, which can be interpreted as a result of most respondents' stage in their career (younger than the Portuguese respondents). This underlying mechanism distinguishes people that are higher or lower in this approach to work in their lives.

The second canonical correlation shows a significantly negative association between working time and workload and extrinsic material work motivation in both samples. The underlying mechanism explaining this canonical correlation can be interpreted as a contextual comfort - effort operating theory. Within this mechanism, those who have a better workload and working time are less extrinsically motivated and those who have a worse working time and workload are more extrinsically motivated, so they are prepared to make efforts in their working lives (less contextual comfort) to receive benefits and their salary in compensation.

Through this canonical variate, people express to what extent they are willing to work hard to obtain more extrinsic retribution and prepared to make greater efforts and spend more time working. Higher values in this canonical correlation (in the DW factor set) are expressed by those who prefer a calm, balanced working life and avoid making major efforts to obtain better extrinsic compensation. Lower values are expressed by those who are prepared to work hard and are affected less negatively by work that demands time and by high levels of effort required to perform tasks.

Considering the differences between the samples, in the Portuguese sample social protection reinforces the relevance of psychological contextual comfort (here expressed as security) in this canonical correlation. People scoring high in this canonical variate (in the DW factor set) show a preference for contextual comfort at the expense of earnings. However, a certain amount of money is required for them to consider they receive meaningful retribution for the exercise of citizenship. This last DW dimension may be unexpected considering the negative association with extrinsic material work motivation. The puzzle can be solved taking into account that extrinsic material work motivation exerts a pressure to work hard to receive more while meaningful retribution focuses on the freedom that comes from having enough money to be a citizen able to perform their role in society. Therefore, in the Portuguese sample, the contextual comfort – effort mechanism, while including more dimensions on the decent work side, easily keeps its meaning.

Concerning the Brazilian sample, extrinsic social work motivation is negatively added to this canonical variate, which means Brazilian lawyers include in this mechanism a disregard for others' approval. As long as they prefer a life of contextual comfort, they are more and more unwilling to be affected by criticism from others and seek their approval less. In spite of the differences between samples, the core meaning of this canonical correlation can be interpreted as the mechanism that accounts for contextual comfort and balance, or tension and performance for extrinsic benefits.

The greater concentration of younger lawyers in the Brazilian sample might contribute to the differences between samples (notably the presence of DW2 in the two canonical correlations in the Brazilian sample). However, this is an interesting aspect deserving further attention in future research due to the literature suggesting that junior lawyers tend to feel a lack of work-life balance (Forstenlechner & Lettice, 2008). As stressed by Wallace (1997), in the initial career stage (little professional tenure) lawyers are "simultaneously learning how to practice law, meet their billable targets, and generate a client base" (p. 244) and that is highly demanding. After some years of work experience "partnership status and securing a stable set of clients, less time is required to bill the same hours as an inexperienced, junior associate" (Wallace, 1997, p. 244).

Gender differences also can help in explaining differences between samples in the second canonical correlations. In the Portuguese sample, female participants are more prevalent. The process of feminization or the increased female presence in the legal profession has been widely presented and discussed (e.g., Kay & Gorman, 2008; Menkel-Meadow, 1986, 1989). Women have different motivations than men to begin law school, since they are more socially oriented and men more "interested in maintaining their socioeconomic class status" (Carroll & Bayfield, 2007, p. 226). Women focus more on "social justice or public interest motivations and are also more likely to take a job within this area upon graduation" (Carroll & Bayfield, 2007, p. 230), they plan "to work in a government or public-interest setting, rather than a private firm" (Kay & Gorman, 2008, p. 301). Wallace (1999) mentioned that "[t] he literature suggests that female professionals experience greater work-to-nonwork conflict than men because of the primacy they attach to being successful both in their career and wife /mother roles" (p. 799).

In the Portuguese sample (with more women than men), besides good working time and workload, the second canonical correlation function includes an additional appreciation of social protection (for themselves and their families) and a kind of retribution (represented in our DW4) that is more dedicated to promoting well-being, and personal and professional development (for themselves and their families) than extrinsic material work motivations (e.g. money). For the Brazilian sample (with more men than women), only working time and workload and two different types of extrinsic work motivations are within this mechanism (social, such as praise, and material, such as money).

Overall, in both samples, while the first canonical correlation associates more autonomous work motivation, values and meaning, the second one associates working time, workload and extrinsic motivations. The first mechanism can be seen as related to intrinsic aspects of work and its intrinsic importance in life, the second one seeming to be related to extrinsic aspects of work and its instrumentality in life.

The research on this topic from a Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychological perspective is recent, which makes it hard to assess the implications of our results by seeing them in the context of a wide range of previous studies. However, considering our samples these findings are useful in designing work practices and defining human resource management policies and strategies mainly for law firms and the legal profession. The two mechanisms found in this research should be taken into account in those human resource policies, strategies and practices. They are part of how people relate to their work, and it is expected that workers can be assessed on their position in each mechanism. Some workers would prefer contextual comfort while others would prefer to make efforts to gain greater extrinsic benefits. For some workers, their professional life is an important part of their identity and the intrinsic aspects of work are very important. For others, those intrinsic aspects of work are less important. Despite these differences among workers, our findings reinforce the idea that decent work is highly motivating whether through the intrinsic characteristics of tasks or through the context and benefits that come from it. Therefore, the inclusion of DW as a priority for the legal profession can improve lawyers' well-being and performance.

Limitations and recommendations for future research

The use of canonical correlation analysis allowed the examination of multiple and simultaneous interactions between two large groups of dimensions and evaluation of the main mechanisms in operation. It is important to consider that most of the literature produced on the legal profession is based on exercising the profession in law firms. Further research about independent lawyers (solo practitioners) can bring relevant information about these professionals. Besides, although our study was conducted in two different countries, interesting potential developments may arise from research involving samples from other countries. In the future, it would also be possible to verify differences in DW among several organizational settings (with different organizational cultures and climates).

The cross-sectional design used restricts causal inferences. Therefore, considering theoretical implications, a deeper understanding of the variables and relationships in the study could be achieved with more qualitative research and longitudinal designs. This could also provide better understanding of causal mechanisms and variations of DW and work motivation through time. Studying the impact of life-cycle changes on the decent work dimensions (as suggested by Bescond, Châtaignier, & Mehran, 2003; ILO, 2008), and vice-versa, could bring relevant results to enrich our understanding of work motivation and decent work.

The research on DW from a WOPP perspective is only at the beginning. Its development could offer important contributions not only to lawyers' work, but to the improvement of workers' lives in general. Our research showed empirical evidence that the promotion of intrinsic and identified work motivation, extrinsic work motivation and the prevention of amotivation can be achieved from investment in the creation and maintenance of DW. The results are relevant content for human resource management practices, strategies and policies. Considering the increasing importance given to DW, namely the inclusion of DW as one of the sustainable objectives for 2030 by the United Nations (UN, 2015), we hope that in a near future, research about DW (high levels and/or deficits) in a multiplicity of work contexts, its measure, analysis and use as a diagnostic tool can promote the development of different kinds of interventions aiming to improve work environments.

The two sets of multivariate variables (DW factors and work motivation types) have shown two strong mechanisms of association (two canonical functions). The understanding of these complex mechanisms can help human resource managers in dealing with decent work and work motivation matters regarding lawyers and possibly knowledge workers in general.



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Endereço para correspondência:
Tânia Ferraro
Faculdade de Psicologia e Ciências da Educação, Universidade de Coimbra
Rua do Colégio Novo, S/N
3000-115 Coimbra, Portugal

Recebido em: 04/06/2017
Primeira decisão editorial em: 10/07/2017
Versão final em: 04/08/2017
Aceito em: 22/09/2017



Acknowledgement: this study was supported in part by a grant from the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Ministry of Education of Brazil, Brasília, DF, Brazil (CAPES fellow, Process Nº BEX 9703/13-6).
1 "Billable hours, i.e. the hours spent on and charged for client work, there are high expectations and billing targets in the region of 2,000-2,400 billable hours per year" (Forstenlechner & Lettice, 2008, p. 642).

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