Over the weekend I heard an interview on NPR with Corey Sharp, a DEMCO worker restoring electricity in Louisiana. With Hurricane Issac making landfall just last week, the treturous conditions have resulted in many communities without power. And Melissa Block’s interview with Corey caught my attention as he beamed with pride because his work had a purpose, “definitely it’s a good feeling, you know, putting people’s electricity back on”
When Melissa Block observed, that to restore power he would have to work through the weekend and therefore be “laboring on labor day,” Corey didn’t even seem to notice.
He laughed and responsed, “I definitely will be laboring on Labor Day. It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s what I’m here for. No big deal.” This struck me, I don’t remember the last time I heard someone sound so proud to work on labor day. All I usually hear (and have likely cavetched about myself), are people complaining about not getting the holiday off like everyone else.
Maybe that’s the difference between working just for a paycheck versus working for a purpose. The difference being between external (paycheck) or internal (purpose) motivators. One of these is more powerful a motivator than the other. You guessed it…..purpose will motivate people to strive for more, to take pride in their work and achieve greater outcomes.
Believe it or not, there’s actually proof of this, numerous studies have been conducted to compare the productivity of workers receiving external rewards as motivators against those motivated intrinsically. They found that the extrinsic motivator of money only increased productivity so much before plateauing. Whereas, the intrinsic motivators, purpose, challenge and autonomy, resulted in significantly better outcomes for employers.
Why is this? You might ask! Because, contrary to popular belief, people are more motivated when they’re work has a deeper meaning. Have you ever worked for a boss that constantly drilled improving the bottom line? I have and can attest to the fact that it only provides so much of an incentive. After a while, you get tired of working your ass off just so someone else can take a fancy vacation. And many bosses mistakenly think that if they offer just a bit more of a reward, a bit more money, that you’ll make magic happen.
But the reality is, most people are not that shallow. Sure, it’s great getting time and a half for working on a holiday. But it is even better working for a purpose, making a positive impact in your community and helping others. That’s when people stop complaining about work and embrace their responsibilities with pride; that’s the power of working for a purpose.