Finding motivation at workI was inspired to write this post both after reading Clayton Christensen’s book “How will you measure your life?” and after much reflection on my journey so far.

Recently my brother finished his high school education, and is now ready to face the opportunities and prospects that the world offers. I remember being in the same position 10 years ago very well.

Not long after leaving school, I made the decision to leave a career opportunity with an accounting firm and follow my passion into health and fitness. It proved to be one of the best decisions I have made so far in my life. I hope for the sake of my brother and for yourself that you will find or are presently doing what you are truly passionate about. Something that will get you up out of bed each morning with a smile on your face and the gratitude of being lucky enough to do what you do each day.

Christensen’s book discusses a strategy to do just that, which I had unknowingly implemented myself 9 years ago.

What makes us tick? People can get caught up in unhappy careers, and ultimately unhappy lives by a general misunderstanding of what truly motivates us.

Frederick Herzberg published a breakthrough article on the topic of motivation theory. His theory distinguishes between two different factors in finding motivation at work: hygiene factors and motivation factors.

Hygiene factors: are things like status, compensation, supervisory practices, job security, work conditions, company policies, and working relationships.

It is interesting that Herzberg lists compensation as a hygiene factor and not a motivation factor. He also states that if you immediately improve all the hygiene factors of your job, you won’t suddenly love it, you just won’t hate it anymore.  “The opposite of job dissatisfaction is not satisfaction, it is the absence of dissatisfaction”.

Financial incentives are not the same as motivation.  Being truly motivated at your chosen profession enables you to do something because you want to, and the motivation will continue to see you through the good times and the bad times that you will inevitably face during your career.

Whilst it is important to address hygiene factors, such as a safe working environment, good relationships with managers and colleagues, enough money for food, shelter and to look after your family– if you don’t have these things, you’ll experience dissatisfaction in your work. By addressing all the hygiene factors to a suitable level, you will now have a job you wont be dissatisfied with.

But these factors wont make you love your job they merely stop you from hating it. How many people have you met who begrudge work only to do it for the dollars it brings in. They simply chose the wrong criteria to enable happiness in their lives. When we dedicate a significant portion of your life to work it’s a decision I hope you don’t have to tolerate, because it doesn’t have to be this way. To love your career and in finding motivation from your work you will need to really focus on the 2nd factor of the motivation theory.

Motivation factors: include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.  These factors help develop and derive meaning from your work, instilling intrinsic motivation from the work itself.

These are the factors that truly motivate you, it is something that I was willing to hold out for, and what Christensen hopes his Harvard graduates hold out for. It will mean the difference between dreading Monday morning on a Sunday night and being excited to get cracking on a new week doing what you love.

With this theory it is clear that finding motivation is much less about external prodding or stimulation, and much more about what’s inside of you, and inside your work writes Christensen.

So keep the hygiene and motivation factors in balance making deliberate choices based on this balance of the two factors. The right choices will mean the difference to feeling unfulfilled and unhappy or feeling, happy and finding motivation at work.

Good questions you need to ask yourself

  • Is this meaningful work to me?
  • Do I have an opportunity to learn new things?
  • Will I get a chance to develop?
  • Can I be given more responsibility to shoulder?
  • Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement?

People who find positive answers to the above questions are at a distinct advantage to those who don’t. They are able to turn up to work and deliver their very best efforts, making them very good at what they do.  A by-product of being excellent at your job is that almost all other measurable aspects of your job (hygiene factors) will improve. Job security is not a problem for a person who can add value, learn and grow in a position that they are truly motivated by likewise with compensation an intrinsically motivated person commands more.

Realising this will allow you to focus on what really matters and all the rest of the more measurable aspects of the job will fade in importance.

“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it”. Steve Jobs

If you are not currently finding motivation at work, I hope that you are well on your way to making decisions about your future that will lead you to it.

Elliott