Motivation at work: Dan Ariely and 7 great studies on what works -- Weekend HR reading

If you have time this weekend and want to watch a 20-minute video on how we are motivated at and by work, I would encourage you to take a look at Dan Ariely’s TED talk. He’s engaging, interesting, and I believe what he says is very important to the work of managers and leaders:

If you, like me, work in a creative environment, we are already positioned to realize the impact of the kind of knowledge-economy motivation that Ariely discusses in his talk (you can read about it at the link, too, if you don’t have 20 minutes). I see and hear my co-workers discussing the meaning of our work on many, many fronts, and we see the fruits of our labors every time a great new product is published or produced. These studies simply drive home the overwhelming value of motivation on the performance of our employees. It’s easy to overlook or underestimate this impact, but we can demonstrably affect the perceptions of how our teams’ work is valued, how meaningful it is, and even how well we all do our jobs. All it takes is a conscious, ongoing conversation about performance (yes, I’m an HR person who supports frequent performance discussions throughout the year vs. one big annual review--and NO ratings or scores or other nonsense).

For me, this quote drives home many of the key points Ariely makes in his talk: “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes,” Ariely says. “The good news is that adding motivation doesn’t seem to be so difficult. The bad news is that eliminating motivation seems to be incredibly easy, and if we don’t think about it carefully, we might overdo it.” [emphasis mine]

Motivation isn’t difficult, and we must be mindful of its absence. In fact, Ariely’s quote reminds me of a great William Carlos Williams quote: “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” I encourage each of you to reach out to the members of your teams and stoke that motivational fire in the very near future.


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