Thursday, July 24, 2008

Work Motivation, or Lack Thereof

So if you search for what employers can do to increase employee motivation, you'll get a list that includes:

  • money
  • opportunity for growth
  • leadership opportunities
  • responsibility
  • recognition of performance

Why do so few of the search results for work motivation talk about what I feel is a key motivational factor? Namely, giving a shit about the thing you're working on.

Feeling like the product you're working on is subpar and not likely to improve is a real drain on motivation. :(

I don't want to talk with people about what I work on. If they're not familiar with it, I have no reasons to recommend that they learn about it or try it. If they are familiar with it, I have to agree with all their complaints about it and then some.

I need to work on a different product...


John Cowan said...

This is the second ghit from the search, and I think it's exactly what you are talking about.

Arthaey Angosii said...

I skipped over that one in the search results, assuming "pizza" was going to talk about how it doesn't work to use gimmicky rewards as recognition of performance. The article actually does talk about more than that, so it was interesting to read. Thanks for drawing my attention to it more closely.

Even so, at the end the article lists these things for enhancing motivation: challenge, control, cooperation, recognition, happiness at work ("people who like their job and their workplace are much more likely to find intrinsic motivation"), and trust.

The "happiness at work" is indeed what I'm complaining about, but phrased this way it's very general. What would produce happiness at work, though? For me, "caring about the thing you work on" is one of those things that seems necessary for my happiness at work.*

* This observation is, admittedly, based only on 2 school jobs, 2 summer internships, and 2 "real world" jobs. I do not have decades of evidence to back this up. :)

Aaron *@ said...

I guess I see it a bit differently. I see happiness at work and caring about what you work on as both products of a work environment that fosters such feelings. There may also be a bit of a feedback loop there where happiness causes caring causes more happiness.

What kind of work environment fosters those feelings? For me*, happiness comes from autonomy; and caring comes from autonomy, feeling responsible for the success or failure of what I work on, and working for and with people who also care.

Is there really that much difference from changing groups? Seems like there's pretty big barriers to change/improvement in just about every product your employer ships (though perhaps the impression I get as an outsider is a bit skewed).

*whose experience is less varied than even your own and therefore should be taken with a proportional amount of salt.

Amanda said...

I bet the reason most don't talk about quality of the thing being worked on is because they are results for managers who need to motivate people! People who are already working on projects. The articles focus on what the managers can change (icing), not what they're stuck with (cake :)