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What Motivates You At Work

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The old saying "different strokes for different folks" is certainly true when it comes to work. For vocational happiness, you need to find a job that matches your own motivational profile. To get an idea of what turns you on at work, consider the motivational patterns below. Then, in the following section, you can rate your own level of interest in each one and the degree to which your current job provides it.

Different Motivational Profiles

Most people are motivated by some combination of two or three of the factors below. Few, if any, people would be motivated by all of them.

Achievement-oriented people like challenging tasks, clear goals, and specific measures of success. They tend to prefer "project" jobs, in which tasks have a clear beginning and end, rather than "process" jobs, in which the work is continuous and ongoing. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments and like working for a manager who appreciates their abilities. Opportunities for ongoing skill development are important to them.

Some of us are "people people", who enjoy frequent and friendly interaction with others. These folks prefer jobs where the work requires face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) contact with people. They value relationships with colleagues, enjoy learning about their personal lives, and may extend co-worker relationships into friendships. They want a friendly relationship with their manager and like recognition to be personal.

People motivated by creativity value jobs that involve varied duties and opportunities to innovate. They get bored with repetition, like finding new ways to do familiar tasks, and enjoy brainstorming sessions. Usually, they would rather be the one to get a project started than the one to handle all the implementation details. They work best for a manager who is open to new ways of doing things and recognizes the value of their ideas.

People who enjoy leadership roles like being put in charge of projects. They enjoy making decisions and directing others' activities. Because they find power interesting, they often seek out interaction with higher-level managers. Promotional opportunities are important to them, and they want to be sure that their title, salary, and perks appropriately match their position level. They prefer a manager who provides a lot of autonomy.

Some people are largely motivated by the opportunity to help others or make the world a better place. For them, work is not a job, but a mission. They need to feel that their activities or efforts ultimately have a positive impact on people. They are often attracted to helping professions, causes, or advocacy groups. They want to work for a manager who shares their values and beliefs.

  Problem Solving
Tackling complex and challenging problems is a motivating factor for some people. They get bored with work that is too easy and seek out mental stimulation. They often enjoy providing advice and assistance to help others deal with complicated issues. Being seen as the expert in a particular field is rewarding for them, as they like to be recognized for their knowledge. They enjoy working for managers who appreciate and use their problem-solving ability.

Assessing Your Own Job

Use the table below to see how well your own job matches your motivational profile.  (1) Rate how important each factor is to you, using the scale below. (2) Using the same scale, rate your current job.

Very High 5 4 3 2 1 Very Low
Motivating Factor Importance to You Presence in Your Job
Problem Solving    

If your job and your profile are similar, that's great! Barring other problems, this job should be a good match for you. If your job provides some factors, but not others, you may have to meet those needs outside of work. However, if your job and your profile are vastly different, you may want to consider a career change.

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