What Motivates You at Work (and Why It’s Not About the Money)

Mike thought he’d been working towards his dream career. After all, he held a senior role in a high-profile organisation. Along with the power and prestige this afforded him, Mike enjoyed perks like a high salary and an office with a beautiful view.

From the outside, it seemed like Mike had it all.

But, some concerns were starting to cloud Mike’s happiness and one day, he realised that this so-called dream career actually felt more like he’d sold his soul.

Following a company restructure, his core values no longer seemed to align with those of his employer, and the opportunities for professional development he had been working towards had suddenly been taken off the table.

When he broached his concerns with his wife, she told him in no uncertain terms that he could not leave his job or take a pay cut because their lifestyle would suffer too much.

Mike increasingly felt trapped and was too scared to make any changes to his career.

This unhappiness ended up seeping into his personal life, to the point where he lost everything important to him.

Can you relate to Mike’s situation?

Have you ever felt like you’ve sold your soul?

Money and prestige only get you so far
Salary, working conditions and additional perks are what Frederick Herzberg refers to as hygiene factors. In the context of work, these are the tangible environmental factors, that help to make a job more comfortable to do.

It can be tempting to believe that a job with good hygiene factors is enough. But unfortunately, job satisfaction relies on more than fulfilled hygiene factors, because these don’t address any of your higher-level needs and motivations.

 

An enriched career maximises your motivating factors

Motivating factors are intangible in the context of work, and it is these that govern whether you find a job satisfying and meaningful. They include:

  • Achievement
  • The challenge of the work itself
  • The recognition you receive
  • Opportunities for growth, advancement and responsibility

This means that when looking for an enriched career, you need to look beyond the salary or the fancy office. When considering your satisfaction at your current job, or a new opportunity, ask yourself:

  • Is it meaningful to you?
  • Is it going to give you a chance to develop?
  • Will you learn new things?
  • Will you have the opportunity for recognition and achievement?
  • Will you be given responsibility?

Of course, motivating factors can look different from one person to the next. That’s because individuals may prefer to be recognised in different ways, or perceive opportunities for growth differently.

That’s why it’s essential to invest time to figure out what motivates you at work, and the type of career most likely to maximise those factors for you.

For more detailed advice on how to choose a career based on what motivates you at work, you may be interested in my upcoming book. Follow or subscribe for updates on the release!

Keyword: what motivates you at work

  1. “How Will You Measure Your Life” by C. Christensen, J. Allworth & K. Dillon. Published by HarperCollins, 2012.

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Greg Weiss is Australia’s leading career coach. He is the author of “So You Got The Job! WTF Is Next?”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7-step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf

He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.

He also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.

 

Time to face reality. Why you need to align expectations in the workplace.

Have you noticed there's often a disconnect between a new hire's expectations and that of their employer?

During the hiring process, there's often far too much information to convey in too little time, so it’s not surprising that misunderstandings often take root and show up as a misalignment of expectations.

These can include:

Misunderstandings around the weight of a particular task or skill - For example, something that may have only been briefly touched upon in the interview might form a much more significant part of a role than an employee expects.

Inconsistencies in the workplace culture -
For example, when a company has a reputation for treating their employees in a certain way, but a new hire quickly discovers that the same rules don’t apply for all. Another common one is a misleading portrayal of work/life balance - when employees realise they are still expected to work late, regardless of other commitments, this will come as an unwelcome shock. Clarification is always key.

Unkept promises - Even something mentioned in passing as a future incentive, promotion or initiative is likely to be ingrained in a new hire's mind. As a result, they can feel let down when it doesn't come to fruition.

Context of employment contributes to misalignment of expectations

Other misalignments in expectations arise from something far less obvious - the context of employment. According to CEB's study of High-Impact Leadership Transitions, there are five contexts of employment:

Smooth Sailing - The leader moves into a position according to a previously arranged transition plan under normal business conditions (3% of leadership transitions).

Replacing an Icon - The leader's predecessor was very successful in the job (18%).

Following a Train Wreck - The leader's predecessor was not successful in the job (27%).

Jump Start - A static environment where the performance of the leader's predecessor wasn't particularly strong or weak, but the organisation needs to quickly move in a different direction (19%).

Breaking Ground - The leader assumes a newly created position (31%).
As you can see, with only 3% of leadership transitions classified as smooth sailing, most are facing a high degree of uncertainty and the reality that the employee experience (EX) will be far from easy.

But, it's unlikely the employee will be aware of that context until it's too late - when they are commencing their role, and employee onboarding is underway. That's why it's critical for hiring managers to pay mind to align expectations by ensuring they present the role accurately and are aware that their own expectations of the employee are likely to be framed by the context of the hire.

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Greg Weiss is Australia’s leading career coach. He is the author of “So You Got The Job! WTF Is Next?”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7-step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf
He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.
He also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.