Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fridays @ Work: Philosophy of Motivation

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming, Fridays @ Work, with your host Rion. I'm not ready to share my given name with my hordes of readers, to protect the innocent (and my job).

Today's topic is: Motivation.

First, let's talk about what doesn't motivate me.

What about posters that advertise "Persistence", "Excellence", "Character", and "Opportunity"? Not only are the accompanying images lame stock photos of airbrushed mountains and streams, but the text is rife with cliche. Not only am I baffled by those who appreciate such muck, I am embarrassed for our company. These posters just reek of a lack of individualism, and a false front of some kind of higher moral ground. Now I know that we are not perfect, but we are individuals, with our own tastes, skills, and ways of interacting. Diluting us into categories and anesthetizing us with platitudes...doesn't fly (with me, at least). "Arrogance" poster is courtesy of

Another demotivator is the constant encouragement of others to the expense of everyone else in the company. There are a few admins at my work who go above and beyond. So they are publicly praised for doing a good job at almost every all-staff meeting. But is this praise in lieu of adequate compensation? Somehow it makes the rest of us look like schmucks. But maybe we are simply expected to overachieve? Public praise is great, don't get me wrong, but when it is the same few people being praised every week? It gets old. Fast.

So what does motivate me?

Respect. I appreciate the respect of older and wiser collegues. I like it when my emails are responded to (not summarily). I like it when my ideas are carefully considered (and not trashed immediately for being too new or having been tried '93!). I like it when I am given tasks that can showcase my talents and not my shortcomings. To my company's credit, I am going to be given the assignment to write another white paper. If you're not familiar with white papers, they are extremely subtle advertising. White papers communicate knowledge about a topic, just like an academic essay, with the underlying assumption that this knowledge makes the producing company's products more informed by market forces, good design, business necessity, and careful research. So, being asked to write something more complex, thoughtful, and conceptual draws on my strengths more than having to troubleshoot partially-developed hardware and software. This shows respect for my skills, and my weaknesses.

Also motivating? Money. Yes, it seems gauche, but the more money I'm paid per hour, the more sophisticated I feel. The harder I work. The more responsibility I feel. Now perhaps this is a juvenile perspective, but it is my truth. Although I worked my butt off as a temp secretary many years ago, I would not fight for the overall good of the company. That is for people who really feel invested in the company's outcomes. Slightly demotivating, personally, is the fact that I am paid less than the average technical writer in my area. Bah humbug. I am also not an engineer, so I suppose that impacts my saleability, even with a Master's.

What motivates you at work? Come on folks, throw me a bone. :-)
What demotivates you? Now that's fun to talk about, if only to let off steam.


LAYDEE D said...

Thank you for visiting my site. What demotivates me is having a boss who brings their drama to work and expects us to listen and cater to their needs - while making sure our duties are taken care of. Talk about multi-tasking.

Rion said...

Thanks, I've encountered bosses and coworkers looking for free therapy, as well!

FranIAm said...

This is brilliant. Laydee d says it all.

As I wind down my days of having (gulp) been a senior manager, I end them knowing that I was often out of fashion for the whole corporate gig. I tried to create a good workplace.

Believe me, I was an a$$ first for many years, but hard lessons either result in bigger jerks or smaller ones. I hope I became the latter and learned to lead by example and by humility.

You can imagine that these virtues were not so much beloved by my employer, but I think I would do ok if judged by my most recent team.

If I succeeded at all it is only because of said team... I stood on their shoulders to be sure.

I won't miss the corp crap but I will miss the people I mention with much affection and respect.