Show Me the Money?

Dan Pink gave a brilliant talk at TEDGlobal 2009 on the study of motivation.

In it, he spoke about the paradox that exists when you offer financial incentives as a means to improve performance. You would think that the promise of money would encourage most individuals to do better. The reality is that, when creativity was involved, having the money dangling there ended up decreasing creativity and performance, and groups that had no incentive did better.

While listening to Mr. Pink’s presentation, I kept going back to a post I wrote a couple weeks ago about keeping job fit as the objective of your job search. In that post, I had talked about job seekers finding jobs that would bring them fulfillment vs. settling for a job that a person is overqualified for just to have a job.

Today, I’m looking at the other side of this issue — the problems with accepting a job just for the prestige and the money.

This is much more insidious, in part, because not everyone sees it as a problem. Say you get laid off, but then you land a job where you make more money and have a bigger title.

What’s the problem there? That’s what everyone should aspire to, right?

Not necessarily.

If you are in a job simply for the money, how are you going to motivate yourself? Not having enthusiasm for your job can’t be replaced by money or the things it can buy.

Mr. Pink later talked about three components for motivation. The last two really hit home for this topic:

“…Mastery, the desire to get better and better at something that matters. And purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

Notice what he talks about here — “…something that matters…yearning…in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

Those words evoke images of people who are excited about their work, whose eyes are alight with the anticipation of the next challenge they get to tackle.

Money can’t buy that. Job titles can’t bring that into your life.

Go back to the tenet from a couple weeks ago (which originated from Meg Bear at TalentedApps): “Job fit should be the goal.”

What are your thoughts on taking a job for money?

Here is Dan Pink’s funny, insightful presentation: has many, many wonderful presentations (like Daniel Pink’s) on a myriad of topics, all for free! If you have not had the opportunity to visit their website, do it. You will be glad you did.

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