What motivates you to continue on your current path? I consider, when asking this question, the 70% of U.S. employees who are disengaged at work. Or, put another way, for 70% of Americans, their job is just a paycheck. That is problematic on a variety of levels. “When did companies decide employee engagement wasn’t important?” one might wonder. However, those 70% of Americans may be equally to blame if they are staying in jobs that do not motivate and energize them in some way. This brings me back to my original question. If you are one of those 70%, why do you continue?
Fear of Poverty
One of the more disturbing trends in this country is that the definition of “work ethic” seems to be shifting towards fear of poverty rather than a genuine belief in the virtue of work. Fear of poverty keeps people in jobs they don’t like with no real plan for the future. Fear causes people to decide that where they are is “as good as it gets” and to settle in, disengage, and hope that they are doing enough work to survive the next round of layoffs. Since this model is steeped in comparison, fear causes people to try to outwork each other, resulting in a staff that is productive and miserable.
Or perhaps it is not that you have any fear that you will lose your job. Perhaps your job feels quite secure, yet you are still disengaged. You have “arrived” and you plan to stay for a while. As a result, you slowly lose interest because you have decided that you have no need to grow further. One may be able to motivate themselves to be quite productive, to “snap themselves out of” this complacency by acknowledging that others may be jockeying for their job, to try and instill fear of poverty (see above) in themselves, but the truth is that without taking opportunities for growth, complacency sets in and the result is disengagement.
In a sense, these are two sides of the same coin. One side motivates the person to seek their approval from their bosses for the “reward” of continuing in a job that keeps them out of poverty, and the other motivates the person to settle for what they have and reap perceived rewards available to them. I say, lose the coin. This paradigm is no way to view work. Having discarded it, the question becomes, “What will motivate me and make me engaged at work?”
For some, this could be as simple as tweaking their own perspective on what they do. For others, this could mean some soul-searching to discover what kinds of work would better engage them, and to pursue that work. Regardless, the result is something to strive for, and that is the seed of a renewed engagement with your work and your life.