Address these six motivators, and enjoy your work
Gloria wasn’t happy at work. It wasn’t that she hated her job. Her co-workers were pleasant, and she didn’t mind the type of work she did. In fact, she thought she did it pretty well. Of course, she wanted more money, but who doesn’t? No, something else was bothering her. At some basic level, she simply didn’t enjoy coming to work. Whatever excitement or sense of accomplishment she used to feel had been replaced by a lack of motivation.
Gloria’s issue is a common one. Employees around the world sometimes lose sight of what makes their work worthwhile. They get rundown, burnt out and unmotivated. At times like these, it can be difficult for anyone to enjoy work and find their former levels of motivation and energy.
To help Gloria and the millions like her, it is necessary to look at the underlying causes. Why do any of us enjoy work? And can we reignite those causes in our own work environment? The answer is yes: There are at least six different reasons outside of money why we enjoy our work.
1. Inner Accomplishment
The remarkable time and energy some people put in to their work can only be understood as an inner drive. They simply want to achieve that goal. Seeking a personal sense of accomplishment is natural and can be harnessed every day by millions of workers and employers. It can be described as “taking pride in one’s work” or a sense that “this is what I was meant to do.” Whether the objectives are for the short or long term, making progress toward a goal makes all of us feel good.
2. The Greater Good
Many of us also are motivated by a sense of community—the feeling that we are part of something larger and that life isn’t just about our own individual needs and wants. This particular joy and peace is experienced by millions as they volunteer for church or service club tasks, but it also can be encouraged in the workplace. Perhaps Gloria could be encouraged to reframe her circumstances and see how she is contributing to the greater good.
3. Personal Relationships
Many get enjoyment from the individual relationships they experience at work. It helps people look forward to each day. The laughter, the camaraderie, the forgiveness and even the occasional stress are all something they enjoy and know they wouldn’t want to live without. But not everyone is the same, and certainly we’re not all our best self every single day.
Enlightened managers respect this basic human need to connect with others and allow it, if not encourage it, in their workplace. Has Gloria’s manager given her the opportunity to connect with others? Has he diagnosed that this is something important to her?
4. Sense of Team
Similarly, some people enjoy a special sense of completeness and wholeness by being part of a team. In the workplace, many employers work hard to encourage this shared identity by conducting internal public relations and messaging campaigns. For quieter teammates, a sense of camaraderie might provide an extremely important opportunity to connect and feel like they belong. Does Gloria feel she’s part of a team? How much team spirit has her boss created?
5. Physical Exertion
For some, a fulfilling sense of joy comes from physical exertion; the absence of it makes any job less appealing. It just doesn’t feel like work if they aren’t breaking a sweat or doing battle with the weather. This is partly a product of socialization and might be tied up with what “work” means to them.
Modern-day psychology reaffirms the benefits of physical labor. We all know how endorphins can give us a slight high and about the stress-management benefits that come with working out. Is getting physical a way for Gloria to battle her lack of motivation? If her job is sedentary, does her employer even offer a wellness program?
6. Mental Challenges
Finally, a great many of us enjoy the mental feeling that stems from exercising our creativity or satisfying our curiosity. The small euphoria that comes from developing something new or conquering a complex problem can be for a big part of enjoying work for some. Does Gloria’s boss know whether she’s incredibly bored or frustrated by her tasks? Is it time for a promotion or perhaps a little job engineering to offer a chance at being creative?
‘Why’ is the Answer to ‘How’
So, what can be done more generally to help employees enjoy their work? What can Gloria, or any employee, do personally? The answer is simple: Treat the cause, not the symptoms. Instead of worrying about symptoms like aggressive behavior or poor attitude, employees and employers can create a more enjoyable work environment by directly addressing one or more of these common denominators.
Why not casually interview Gloria about whether she feels connected to her co-workers? Does she have any friends at work? Why not ask, “Is this job challenging enough?” or “Would you like the opportunity to be more creative?” Stepping back and reflecting on each of these six motivators can guide any manager or employee toward a more enjoyable workplace. There is hope for Gloria in the application of modern-day psychology to the workplace.
Erick Lauber, Ph.D., is an Applied Psychologist and Faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He speaks and consults on leadership, personal growth and development, and taking charge of our own life stories. He has won 19 educational TV/film awards and has been published in numerous psychology journals and book chapters. His video log is located at www.lifeframing.org. For more information, visit www.ericklauber.com or call 724.464.7460.