Motivation At Work

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A video which explains some of the surprising science of workplace motivation. Workers who don’t respond to the elementary carrot-stick paradigm? Workers who gratefully take on unpaid work to make the world better?  Well, it turns out that the kind of work you do has more to do with what sort of rewards motivate you. The carrot-stick, cash-based rewards paradigm only works with fairly rudimentary (e.g., mechanical) tasks. Once the type of work you do graduates to more cognitively-challenging, creative work, the motivations change entirely. In fact, applying the carrot-stick motivation paradigm to these high-cognition tasks actually produces the opposite effect!

It turns out that thinking workers (can’t break this down by blue/white collar) want to know their work means something other than enhanced return for shareholders. All this time we’ve been led to believe that money is the primary motivator, when it isn’t. Not only is it not the best motivator, it can actually be detrimental to an employee’s motivation.

Watch this video. It’s engaging, completely teachable, and illuminating.


2 thoughts on “Motivation At Work

    bjjlcsw said:
    May 15, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    Definitely true in the healing professions. The highly trained and clinically advanced team that I manage derive their job satisfaction mainly from feeling that their “work makes a difference in people’s lives.” (which it does.) Conversely, when they receive increases in pay or improved benefits, issues that cause job dissatisfaction are ameliorated only temporarily. Flexible hours, telecommuting options, and job sharing possibilities appear to mean a lot more to them.

      wes responded:
      May 17, 2010 at 3:57 PM

      When I took my first teaching job at St. George’s University I was excited to be able to share the upshot of my first-class education with students from the developing world. Even after my return to the US I happily take a leading role in a professional program at SGU because it allows me to continue bring instrumental in the success of bright, motivated individuals in the developing world. My job is way more than a source of income to me. Like the speaker in this video proposed, my employer pays me enough that my compensation isn’t really a factor, which frees me to find ways to derive real personal satisfaction from my work. It is precisely this satisfaction that keeps me engaged with a job that happens 4200 miles away in the shadowy ‘other-world’ of the internet.

      Now: how to get capital to adopt enough of a ‘mission’ (other than nihilistic profit-for-shareholders-pursuit) to engage the creative, high-functioning thinkers that could take their productivity and social responsibility to the next level?

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