The Emotional Make-Up of a Motivated Employee

Written By: Andrew Berry
September 13, 2012
2 min read

Motivation. We all know what the word means, but the factors that drive a person’s motivation might vary greatly depending on who you ask. This is especially true in a corporate office setting. Certain employees might be motivated by money, job titles, power, and/or responsibility; while others might be motivated by the ability to “fly under the radar.” Regardless of what motivates some employees, most people aren’t open to changing the process in which they get things done. This can be especially tricky when trying to institute new management personnel or new project management software.

Back in the July 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, authors Nitin Nohria, Boris Groysberg and Linda-Eling Lee outlined a new way of looking at employee motivation. In that article, they describe the fundamental emotional motivational factors as:

The drive to acquire (the acquisition of scarce material things, including financial compensation, to feel better)

The drive to bond (developing strong bonds of love, caring, and belonging)

The drive to comprehend (to make sense of our world so we can take the right actions)

The drive to defend (defending our property, ourselves and our accomplishments)

In comparing these factors to everyday office situations, there are certainly some correlations. The drive to acquire is pretty self explanatory, as it pertains to being rewarded with money or additional compensation. The drive to bond can refer to employees feeling a sense of belonging and respect amongst their co-workers. Praise from senior management applies as well. The drive to comprehend can refer to employees feeling the need to fully understand how their work fits into the grand scheme of the company’s success. Also, employees feel gratification when they fully understand the scope of the work, because always relying on senior management for answers can be demoralizing. Lastly, the drive to defend can refer to employees feeling the need to own the work they do and defend their rationale behind it.

People in general are more apt to do a good job when they feel appreciated, so showing a bit of compassion for your workforce can be an integral part of getting high quality work from them in return. When implementing new management solutions, it is important that employees feel a connection to some or all of the emotional factors above. If implementing a new project management solution, make sure that employees know that the switch is mandatory, but be sure to show some sympathetic emotion towards the onboarding process. It is important that employees realize that while new changes aren’t always ideal, the new process will be more effective for the company, while ultimately saving everybody time.

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Written By: Andrew Berry
Andrew is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Northeastern University currently in the middle of a six month internship with Intuit Quickbase. When outside of the office and the classroom, he enjoys cooking, exercising, and sports.