The 3 Workplace Motivators

“It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.”

Abraham Maslow

For the first time in mankind’s history, the workforce has reached what Abraham Maslow called “Self-Actualization.” This important development means that there are 3 primary motivations that drive today’s workers. They are: Craft, Cause, & Community™. These are the 3 things that every worker is looking for in their work, whether they realize it or not.

Craft – the need to be good at something

Cause – the need to believe in something

Community – the need to belong to something

A Craft person is motivated by the experience of exercising a skill, or a craft they’ve mastered. For some, this means playing an instrument or creating art. For others, it could be making beautiful furniture by hand. For someone else, it might be diagnosing a complicated illness. A person’s craft could even be something that seems mundane to others. For example, an accountant might get enormous satisfaction from getting the numbers in column A to line up with the numbers in column B. In every case of craft, there’s a task that involves significant skill, and the person experiences a dopamine release from practicing that skill successfully. In fact, their craft is so fulfilling that it doesn’t seem to matter when their work isn’t part of an important mission or world cause. The journey itself is like a destination to this person. In addition, this person will be totally happy whether they get to enjoy it with a community of other people or not. You could lock them in a room by themselves with their craft and they’d be just fine.

A Cause person, on the other hand, is motivated by work that serves an important purpose. This is the person who joins the Peace Corps or goes into the ministry or lobbies for a social justice issue. The key is that what they do matters in the world. But it’s not limited to non-profit circles. For some, mattering in the world simply means being part of something important or influential. A technician at the Genius Bar in an Apple store could feel a sense of mission because his work places him at the center of a technological revolution. He is part of something big, and therefore he feels like he matters in the world. He feels like people notice him because he is associated with something important. For a person in this category, the sense of purpose is so satisfying that you could assign them to any task and they would be fine. Likewise, they don’t care too much whether or not they’re surrounded by coworkers along the way. The destination validates any circumstances they might face along the journey.

A Community person is someone who gets satisfaction from being an irreplaceable member of a group. Think of the TV show Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name….” For this type, the sense of identity they get from belonging to a group of people in their workplace is more important than any specific craft they practice or mission the company serves. You could give this person any job, and it doesn’t have to fulfill a significant purpose in the universe. As long as they play a role on the team, they’ll be happy. A different technician at that same Apple Store Genius Bar could love his job for this reason. If you didn’t know better, you might assume they’re both motivated by cause. But nothing could be further from the truth. The second technician would be just as happy sorting inventory in the back room or greeting customers out front. It’s being known by his coworkers on the Apple team that excites him!”

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