I was talking yesterday with a friend of mine who owns a fairly large company and he was lamenting his firm’s personnel problems. Namely, how do you motivate people to not suck? He says he has tried higher salaries and incentive programs and extra benefits and morale-boosting bullshit, yet still, he has to fire people for things like getting drunk at home when they claim to be out making sales.
In our conversation I mentioned that from what I’ve read, money is a poor motivational tool. Any resulting good feelings from a pay raise or bonus are short-lived at best, and people quickly return to their original state of (dis)contentment. I claimed that many studies have found that job security, advancement, type of work, and a place you’re happy to work are rated as more highly motivational, while pay and benefits are lower on the list. Enjoyment of your job, personal fulfillment and personal relationships are also rated higher than purely monetary concerns.
So today, I was reading up on some of these ideas and came across this article. And one idea in particular caught my attention as it relates to running:
Many of us pour our time and love into avocations — that is, activities for which we will never be compensated — nicely making the point that money for most of us is not the point.
What then is the point? What motivates us (I’m assuming any readers here are running junkies) to “pour our time and love” into running? And does the answer to that question provide some insight into the motivational needs of the other aspects of our lives, e.g. work? Obviously I don’t run for money, yet for some reason I care more deeply and think longer about my running life than my work life. Would I care more and strive harder if offered money to run? Right now, work is a job, running is a passion. What does running provide that work doesn’t? It seems like those should be answerable questions. Off the top of my head, I would say running provides: personal growth, sense of achievement, self-expression, social relationships, a measure of oneself, joy, creativity, activity. I guess the trick then is to bring those same qualities to your work, or find work that better allows for them.
Another related subject on this motivational theme is that of “raising children, an activity reasonably certain to produce a net loss.” The article claims,
At least 70 studies have found that rewards tend to undermine interest in the task (or behavior) itself; this is one of the most thoroughly replicated findings in the field of social psychology.
As parents of two young boys, my wife and I have tried all measure of “motivational” tactics to alter and teach behaivor, and she claims that rewards have proven to be the most useful (I point out that my mom’s leather belt was pretty convincing when I was a kid, but she kind of frowns on that ;). In light of the above quote, however, I wonder if we’re missing something.
So I’m interested to know your thoughts. What motivates you (and your kids)?