Why do you work?
Ok it may be an obvious question. The first answer that sprang to mind was probably financial.
But there are many ways to make money and you have chosen one specific way. So why do you do the work you do? Why do you do it on the inevitable days when it is boring? On the days when it is sunny outside? On the days when work really isn’t your top priority?
Here are some reasons that may or may not apply:
- I enjoy my work
- My job is prestigious
- I get a kick out of taking on challenges and solving problems
- I enjoy being recognised by my boss and colleagues for hard work
- I get a financial bonus or incentive when I reach targets
- I find meaning and purpose in my work
These 6 statements can be divided into two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that comes from getting external rewards . Someone who is extrinsically motivated will be most likely to be motived to work by a prestigious job title, by financial incentive or by praise from other people. Statements 2, 4 and 5 above are examples of extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that comes from within . Someone who is intrinsically motivated is more likely to be motivated by the work itself, by the internal satisfaction that comes from succeeding at a task and by a sense that they are achieving something. Statements 1, 3 and 6 above are examples of intrinsic motivation.
Some people are very strongly extrinsically or intrinsically motivated. Most people tend to have a mix but may lean slightly more towards one or the other.
But why does your motivation type matter?
Well countless studies have shown that intrinsic motivation predicts well-being, particularly in the workplace. One recent study found that high job demands, role ambiguity and conflict in the workplace are, naturally, associated with greater psychological distress. Different people feel different levels of distress. This study found that the level depended on each individual’s extrinsic or intrinsic motivation. Those who were purely extrinsically motivated experienced much greater distress when faced with stress at work. Those who were more intrinsically motivated, however, were protected somewhat from the demands of their job, perhaps because of their tendency to see demands as challenges that will be engaging to solve and worthwhile to overcome .
It’s ok to match your motivation to the task at hand but if you find that your only ever motivation is extrinsic you may want to take another look at why you do what you do. The vast majority of jobs have at least one intrinsically rewarding element. Finding out what that is for you may help you to get through those boring, stressful and sunny days.
- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press
- Trépanier, S.-G., Fernet, C., & Austin, S. (2013). The moderating role of autonomous motivation in the job demands-strain relation: A two sample study. Motivation and Emotion, 37(1), 93-105.