We’ve all seen the data on how the majority of employees are disengaged at work. You may have also seen the shocking data that in almost half of the companies, the high performers are actually less engaged than the low performers. And while there are organization-specific reasons why employee engagement is so low (e.g., bad bosses, low transparency, overwork, etc.), sometimes the problem goes deeper; namely, our personal motivations.
We all have different motivations at work. Some people continually strive for personal betterment, others want to be recognized for their influence, and still others want harmonious relationships with others. Some seek continuity, consistency and predictability in their work, while others are driven by risk, change and uncertainty.
What motivates you?
Through research with thousands of employees and leaders, we’ve discovered that there are five main motivations that drive people’s actions at work; Achievement, Power, Affiliation, Security and Adventure. There are many ways to assess and discover your own personal motivation, from introspection to an online test that assesses these five drivers called “What motivates you?”
To help you get started, here is an overview of each of the five major motivations:
Success: People with a high need for success seek to excel. Their thirst for success is not fueled by being better than others, but rather by continuously reaching a higher level of personal best. Success-driven individuals avoid low-risk situations because easily achieved success is not true success. Instead, they want tough goals that require intense effort and challenge them to grow in new ways. Success is sweet for the achievement-driven person, but the real satisfaction is found in the demanding quest to achieve that success. So while victories are something to celebrate, you won’t find these people resting on their laurels for long before setting off and racing towards a new and difficult goal.
Power: People who are driven by a need for power aren’t looking for Napoleonic “I want to rule the world” domination, but they want to be recognized for their influence. They like to be in charge and will even choose a high ranking title over money. They want to lead others and hold the power to make decisions that impact others. The need for power often includes the desire to be revered and followed.
Membership: People with a strong need for affiliation want harmonious relationships with others and want to feel accepted by others. These people prefer a job that offers significant personal interaction. They like to be part of groups and make excellent team members, although they are sometimes distracted in social interactions. Affiliate-focused people do particularly well in customer service and customer interaction situations.
Security: People with a high need for security seek continuity, consistency and predictability in their employment, work and compensation. They are driven by guarantees and may prefer to stay with the same company, or in the same position or department, for the long term. High-security people often don’t like change, especially when it seems too abrupt or disruptive.
Adventure: People with a need for adventure are driven by risk, change, and uncertainty. They thrive when the environment or work is constantly changing. They tend to love a challenge and jump at the chance to be the first to do something new. They don’t mind failure, especially if they get the chance to try again. Great adventurers often go out alone. They can be entrepreneurs or freelancers. They are likely to change jobs and companies often, especially when they are bored or feel they have “exploded” their potential somewhere.
Once you know your motivations…
One of the great benefits of knowing your motivations is that knowing can help you find opportunities where you are both likely to succeed and deeply fulfilled. For example, adventure-oriented high achievers want excitement and do something new all the time. And they don’t like doing the work that everyone else is already working on; it’s much more rewarding to be the first person to work on a project. So if you’re driven by adventure, you know you need to work in a company or a team where the projects are forward-thinking, new and different.
On the other hand, if you have a high level of security, you should probably avoid a job where your potential new boss says, “Well, we don’t know exactly how you’re going to fit into this team yet, but go board. and we’ll find out as we go along. Safety-motivated people prefer clearly defined roles and tasks.
To have a truly fulfilling and successful career, it’s a good idea to spend some time reading these five motivations and seeing which one suits you best. Or take the online test “What motivates you?”
The more you know yourself, the more likely you are to choose jobs (and careers) that inspire you to do your best every day.