What do we want out of work?


Money really doesn’t motivate people who have to think for a living.

Bonuses and incentives work for manual labour – where what we do is directly linked to the number of things we carry or the number of times we turn a wheel.

If we get paid to meet targets, then we’ll do more to hit those targets.

Dan Pink, in his book Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, looked at the research behind motivation and found that there are three things we crave.

We want purpose – to feel like we are working towards something bigger and greater than ourselves.

It’s like the three bricklayers on a job who are talking about why they took the gig.

The first says, “I’m here for the wages.”

The second says, “I’m here to support my family.”

The third says, “I’m helping build a cathedral.”

Often, if we love doing something and then have to do it for money, we start to resent doing it.

It’s important that we separate the work from the reward – we need enough money to get by to get started.

After that we need to work towards a purpose and not because of the money.

The second thing we crave is autonomy.

We need to be able to do things, have a go, fail, learn, try again and repeat the cycle until we’re happy.

It’s the feeling we get when we craft something like a clay pot – we created that from scratch and however lumpy and misshapen it is, we did it.

It would be a lot less fulfilling to have someone else do it or simply buy it off a shelf somewhere.

The job of a manager these days is less about telling us what to do and more about removing obstacles to us doing the work we need to do.

Finally – we want to achieve mastery – to know that we are good at the things that we do.

That’s a crucial part of fitting into an economy where all we have to offer the world is what we have learned and the skills that we have – and the better and more useful these are the more likely it is that we will be able to make a living.

Mastery is not about degrees and social adulation.

It might be more about being able to go to sleep knowing that we did good work – to have peace of mind.

We’re also more likely to be happy.

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