Motivation at Work

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Motivation is found in the unlikeliest of places and absent in the most promising locations. It can’t be measured or easily viewed.. like quality, it’s only understood when it’s experienced.

It can cause the most amazing and unlikely human achievements and can bring people together in times of misfortune. Although its absence breeds discontent, disaffection, mutiny and in some cases revolution.

The science of motivation begins where the limits of instruction end, human beings are mostly free and able to make their own choices and generally dislike instructions, it is a broad area.

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Research has demonstrated a consistent link between the motivation of the workforce and the success of the company. With increasingly complex technological tasks and with most companies tied up in intangible matters, this link between motivation and success is set to become stronger.

Motivation matters to the individual in the workplace – why am I doing this work? How does this fit into my dreams and hopes for life? – and to the manager seeking to get the most out of the team – how can I encourage them to reach their goals and share their information?

A mathematical formula for motivation does exist: in the 60’s the workplace psychologist Victor Vroom put forward that motivation can be quantified as being equal to the strength of preference for some action multiplied by the expectancy that the action will succeed.

A similar strand of psychological thinking known as goal theory argues that people work best when there is a difficult but achievable goal.

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These observations seem to hold up in real businesses and in research but there is more to life than goals and expectations, other areas like culture and meaning contribute too.

There is science in motivation but there is also a strong argument to say that it is a mistake to pretend that motivation is tangible. It is individual and complex not formulaic.

The ethos, climate and ethics of an organization, it’s unwritten rules matter since we need to stay motivated.

Philip Whiteley

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