Your Career – 4 Questions

Many people are confused about the relationship between incentives and motivation. It’s generally accepted that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are separate, independent measures, which explains why you may love and hate your job at the same time.

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg’s theory of motivation identifies two work factors that cause dissatisfaction: hygiene and motivation.

  • Hygiene factors include status, compensation (salary and benefits), job security, safe and comfortable work conditions, company policies and supervisory practices. With these factors in place, you’re generally satisfied with your work. You may not love your job, but you won’t hate it, either.
  • Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility and personal growth — all of which allow you to feel that you’re making a meaningful contribution. You are motivated by the intrinsic conditions of the work itself.

Herzberg’s theory explains why some people with immense talent and the best intentions make choices that leave them dissatisfied. If you base career decisions solely on hygiene factors (including income), you’re likely to end up demotivated and disengaged.

The pressures of status, providing for our families and paying off debt are assuredly tough, and they should never be ignored. But you need to recognize that they’re not true motivational factors. Making money your top priority may lead you to choose the wrong job. As resentment creeps in, you’ll eventually ask yourself, “Where did my passion go?”

When considering career opportunities, most of us have been taught to focus on hygiene factors. Of equal (if not greater) importance are the following questions:

  1. Is this work meaningful to me?
  2. Does this job offer a chance for professional development?
  3. Will I have opportunities for recognition and achievement?
  4. Will I be given responsibility?

“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work,” said Steve Jobs in his famous 2005 Stanford University commencement address. “And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

When in doubt, seek guidance from a trusted mentor or experienced coach. If you’ve never had the benefits of working with a coach, perhaps now would be a time to do so. Give me a call, I’d love to hear from you.

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