Remaining motivated at work

The typical picture that comes to mind when thinking about motivation at work is dangling carrots and looming sticks. But does that really work? Intuitively we know that carrots and sticks is not the best route to either happiness or productivity. In this lesson we will look at other ways of keeping oneself motivated and fulfilled at work.

English: Autonomy Mastery Purpose vs. Carrot a...

English: Autonomy Mastery Purpose vs. Carrot and Stick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Motivators vs. Hygiene factors: Most of us believe that salary is the primary reason we are motivated to work. Wrong! Salary is a hygiene factor as per Herzberg, and we will leave the job or become very dissatisfied if we are not adequately compensated; however salary by itself will not motivate us to put our best efforts or to be happy at what we do. Herzberg distinguishes between Hygiene factors that are a minimal requirement for work like salary and satisfactory company policies and administration, and Motivators or factors like opportunity for advancement, recognition and achievement, that pulls one towards the work and lead to job satisfaction.
  2. Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: According to a prominent theory of motivation, known as self-determination theory, people may engage in a task whether due to extrinsic reasons like gaining money, social approval, higher status etc or they may indulge in an activity because they find the activity self-motivating or internally driven. In the latter case of being intrinsically driven, it’s more likely that one will enjoy one’s work. For example, children who inherently love and enjoy drawing with crayons, stop enjoying/drawing with crayons if their earlier drawings are made contingent or rewarded with money. Basically, if you offer monetary incentives for tasks that are inherently satisfying you are creating extrinsic motivators which may undermine the intrinsic motivation.
  3. Autonomy: There are some basic needs that have been identified by Deci and Ryan as necessary for intrinsic motivation. One of them is feelings of autonomy or experiencing some choice and control over your work. Companies can easily allow employees some choice over what to work on, where to work from (work from home policies) and whom to work with to create feelings of autonomy. Maybe your company is not Google /Zappos encouraging 20 percent of your time to be spent on your self chosen projects, but there would be some autonomy you can exercise.
  4. Mastery:  Another basic human need is the need to be competent and to achieve results/ some progress on a daily basis. Companies can provide an environment where employees are provided stretch assignments to grow their capabilities and to develop and grow. And we should be willing to step out of our comfort zone and take on new assignments that lead to feelings of competence.
  5. Relatedness:   A third basic human need is relatedness or feeling connected at the workplace. Companies can encourage more formal as well as informal bonding within teams and we need to make best use of such opportunities to create lasting relationships at work that help us feel a sense of community.
  6. Purpose: We have already talked at length about this basic human need of finding cohesion and meaning in all that you do. It’s important to look at your work in the bigger context and have a clear big picture view of the impact you are making. Also important is to align your work values with your life values and find a sense of work-life integration.

Addressing the above basic needs and ensuring you are intrinsically driven will make it more likely that you are both happier and more productive and engaged in what you do. In the next lesson we will look at how cultivating a positive and optimistic mindset helps you at work.

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