If you’re lucky enough to have a job, or paid work, in this recession — do you enjoy it? Do you jump out of bed each day eager to get to it?
Or is it a means to an end: gas, groceries, clothing, housing?
Daniel Pink’s new book “Drive” has received rapturous reviews. It’s interesting, and largely re-caps and makes more widely accessible the thinking of many academics working on issues of behavior and motivation.
He posits three reasons we really work: autonomy, mastery, purpose. Without these, work is just…drudgery. He offers a number of studies to prove that offering more money or other rewards can actually de-motivate people. We work really hard, if we’re in a job or career that fits us well, if we find these three elements in our work, whether we’re bussing tables or arguing case law.
I wonder how much each of these three matters, or matters most. I worked part-time as a retail sales associate at a clothing store for more than two years, which surprised most people who know me. Wouldn’t I be bored? Hate the lack of power and money?
In fact, the first two factors made the job, initially, appealing. Our boss was hands-off and let us do our jobs as long as we did them well. That mattered a great deal to me. I had never done a job like that and, whether it looks it, selling is difficult! It demands a wide range of skills, even for crap pay. I really enjoyed the challenge of learning and practicing a new skill set.
It was door number three that never worked well for me — purpose. It’s instant gratification to have someone walk up to you, ask for help, give it, make them happy. That’s purpose. But, in the long run, pushing costly nylon didn’t resonate for me in any deeper way. It made a lot of profit for a big corporation far away. Yes, it employs people, here and overseas. It still wasn’t enough for me.
I think this ideal is…idealistic. Many jobs are just plain, hard, boring, repetitive work with almost no way to sex them up into something cool, where AMP show up on a regular basis. So, is his argument an elitist one? Aimed only at people who live to work, instead of those who, more practically if less amusingly, work to live?
In your daily work, do these qualities matter to you? How and where do they manifest?