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August 2012 Archives

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There was a recent post on the Forbes website called “Why Motivation is Hurting your Productivity (And How to Fix It).” I was intrigued by the title of the article, because as an organizational psychologist, I tend to view motivation as something that improves productivity.

I read the article, processed it, and truth be told, disagreed with many of the premises of the author. For starters, he never actually defines what motivation is, though he contends that it is “nature’s reward for achievement.” Yet, Craig Pinder offers one of the most complete definitions of work motivation. He defines it as a “set of energetic forces that originate both within as well as beyond an individual’s being, to initiate work-related behavior and to determine its form, direction, intensity, and duration” (p. 11).

And that’s really the point of motivation. Motivation is the set of forces that give rise to action, whether that action is to fulfill basic needs (such as the need for food or clothing) or higher-level needs (such as the need for achievement or affiliation). Hence, motivation is not a reward for achievement. Rather, motivation is the precursor necessary to make continuous progress so that achievements can be had – it’s the force that drives action.

When people say they are feeling “unmotivated” to do something, what they mean is that they are choosing to either (1) protect their limited energy and time or (2) expend that limited energy and time on other things. People don’t need motivational books and seminars as either a motivator or a reward for success (I blathered on about that in a previous post on this site). Rather, they need three basic things if they are going to take action toward a goal:

  1. They need a goal to take action toward
  2. They need to know the necessary actions to take (or else they may spin their wheels and never get anywhere)
  3. They need the proper incentive (which may be intrinsic or extrinsic in nature)

People experience natural motivation when they have the skill, efficacy and interest needed to achieve a particular goal. People lose motivation when goals take more time or energy to achieve than expected or desired or when the rewards no longer justify the costs, and for a host of other reasons (depending on your perspective).

I will agree with the author that starting small is good for building momentum and that forcing oneself to start working on a task is sometimes half the battle (though motivational tools are never a reward for doing well). However, if you lack the skill, efficacy and interest necessary to achieve a goal, no amount action is going to stimulate progress or achievement. And if you don’t develop skill, efficacy and interest along the way, you will end up wasting your limited time and energy on goals that should never have been set in the first place.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo / CC BY 2.0

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In February, we launched our I Love My Job campaign to highlight the positive aspects of work.

Each month, we feature submissions on our social media pages and recognize the person who submits our favorite entry with some special treats to share with his or her co-workers.

Here is our favorite submission from June...


Kevin Witcher, a Registered Nurse at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Emergency Department in Baltimore, MD cited great co-workers and the ability to help others. Here's what he had to say...

Everyday I get to work with amazing and compassionate people. Helping others to feel better and supporting them in the face of life-changing events.

What do you love about your job? Making a difference, working with fantastic colleagues, feeling proud of the organization you work for, having great benefits, something else? Let us know.

Image: I Love My Job logo adapted with heart graphic from sweetclipart.com

Work and Well-Being 2012We just posted some photos from our 2012 Work & Well-Being Conference. Couldn't be there, or just want to relive the fond memories? Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/healthyworkplace and check out our photos, or jump straight to the album here.

Don't worry...we left out all the really embarrassing pics ;-)