Why Do People Work?

If you can discover why people come to work in your organization and then stay, you will have gained valuable insight into how to create the workplace conditions for productive, satisfied employees.

Most people work for money. It supports their lifestyle needs, from the essential to their extravagant desires. Money provides for control of one’s life, enabling independence and security, underpinning a positive future.

Financial rewards often have more meaning than the money itself. Fair pay affirms that your organization respects you and acknowledges your value to it. But for some, pay is the key measure of their self-worth and status; we see this when highly paid executives and sports stars equate their earnings to their self-worth.

However, those who earn enough to confidently support their way of life, develop other strong reasons for working:

  1. Achievement demonstrates competency. Reaching significant milestones and goals shows you are progressing in life. Meaningful work validates your self-worth.
  2. Working with others in a team builds human relationships. When you are part of something even greater than yourself, when you fit in and complement the efforts of others, your self-esteem is strengthened.
  3. Recognition from someone you respect affirms the quality and value of your efforts. It can reduce doubt about whether you are in the right job.
  4. Contributing to society fulfills a higher human need to help others.
  5. Different experiences grow and maintain your interest. Varied work that provides the opportunity to learn and achieve feeds the voracious human mind.

As a leader what can you learn from this?

  • If you pay barely enough for people to live, they will not be motivated to do more, and you risk creating dissatisfaction.
  • Help people create a vision of what they will accomplish far into the future; where they will be in a year; and, set goals for what they will achieve next week.
  • Build teams with the power to decide how they can accomplish exceptional results.
  • Ensure all managers thank people frequently in a specific, timely, and sincere manner.
  • Enable people to help others, both on the job and by reaching out beyond your organization.

Consider how to make it possible for employees to fulfill all the reasons they work. In doing so, you enable people to achieve more and help your organization reach even greater success.

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May 1, 2012

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