What Motivates You at Work (and Why It’s Not About the Money)

Mike thought he’d been working towards his dream career. After all, he held a senior role in a high-profile organisation. Along with the power and prestige this afforded him, Mike enjoyed perks like a high salary and an office with a beautiful view.

From the outside, it seemed like Mike had it all.

But, some concerns were starting to cloud Mike’s happiness and one day, he realised that this so-called dream career actually felt more like he’d sold his soul.

Following a company restructure, his core values no longer seemed to align with those of his employer, and the opportunities for professional development he had been working towards had suddenly been taken off the table.

When he broached his concerns with his wife, she told him in no uncertain terms that he could not leave his job or take a pay cut because their lifestyle would suffer too much.

Mike increasingly felt trapped and was too scared to make any changes to his career.

This unhappiness ended up seeping into his personal life, to the point where he lost everything important to him.

Can you relate to Mike’s situation?

Have you ever felt like you’ve sold your soul?

Money and prestige only get you so far
Salary, working conditions and additional perks are what Frederick Herzberg refers to as hygiene factors. In the context of work, these are the tangible environmental factors, that help to make a job more comfortable to do.

It can be tempting to believe that a job with good hygiene factors is enough. But unfortunately, job satisfaction relies on more than fulfilled hygiene factors, because these don’t address any of your higher-level needs and motivations.


An enriched career maximises your motivating factors

Motivating factors are intangible in the context of work, and it is these that govern whether you find a job satisfying and meaningful. They include:

  • Achievement
  • The challenge of the work itself
  • The recognition you receive
  • Opportunities for growth, advancement and responsibility

This means that when looking for an enriched career, you need to look beyond the salary or the fancy office. When considering your satisfaction at your current job, or a new opportunity, ask yourself:

  • Is it meaningful to you?
  • Is it going to give you a chance to develop?
  • Will you learn new things?
  • Will you have the opportunity for recognition and achievement?
  • Will you be given responsibility?

Of course, motivating factors can look different from one person to the next. That’s because individuals may prefer to be recognised in different ways, or perceive opportunities for growth differently.

That’s why it’s essential to invest time to figure out what motivates you at work, and the type of career most likely to maximise those factors for you.

For more detailed advice on how to choose a career based on what motivates you at work, you may be interested in my upcoming book. Follow or subscribe for updates on the release!

Keyword: what motivates you at work

  1. “How Will You Measure Your Life” by C. Christensen, J. Allworth & K. Dillon. Published by HarperCollins, 2012.


Greg Weiss is Australia’s leading career coach. He is the author of “So You Got The Job! WTF Is Next?”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7-step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf

He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.

He also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.


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