Motivation in the workplace

How do you see your work?

The stone cutter story revealed three different responses to how the stone cutters saw their work. One thought he was simply earning a day’s pay. The second thought he was cutting stones. The third thought he was building a cathedral. Each indicated a very different view of motivation in the work place. Academics and writers have tended to distinguish between three kinds of “work orientation”:
• A job – earning a day’s pay
• A career-a stone cutter, cutting stones
• A calling-building a cathedral

You may do a job just to earn a weekly pay cheque. Perhaps you’re not looking for other rewards and it’s simply a way to support yourself or your family. Or may be you do it because it enables you to do other things in your life, such as leisure interests, study or community work. It may be an interim step until you find something else, or a necessity which you feel you can’t leave at the moment.

If you feel you’re in a career, this suggests a more personal and committed investment in work. You’ll almost certainly be interested in personal and professional development. You’ll probably also be keen to achieve promotion, status indicators and increased salary.

However, when it comes to a calling, you’ll have a passionate commitment to your work for its own sake. You’ll probably be doing what you love, or something that contributes to the greater good. Like the stonecutter, you may feel you’re building something of social worth. Being engaged in a calling tends to be fulfilling in its own right.
These “work orientations” are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, you may be doing a job which pays for you to pursue your calling outside of work. Your motivation in the workplace must be different to someone who couldn’t see the bigger picture in what they do.

No matter how satisfying work might be, it would be a mistake to rely on our work as our only means of satisfaction in life. In fact, there is evidence that happy people have a more balanced life, using roles and pastimes outside of work to help them to be happier. Our attitude to work will also alter at different times of our lives when we have different priorities.

Thinking about these “work orientations” may help you to think differently about your motivation in the workplace.