These 7 Studies Show What Really Motivates Us at Work

What can make us really love our jobs, even if we actually hate them? Hint: it has nothing to do with money. In this throwback TEDx Talk from 2012, behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains what exactly motivates us at work using seven psychological studies, showing us that we are more than just “rats in a maze” at our jobs. If you run a business and manage people, you may want to take notes; these points could help you motivate your workers and definitely make you a better boss to your employees. The video is long but well worth it- scroll down for the quick points.

Here are the seven take-away points:

1. When we can step back and see the fruits of our labor, it can make us more productive. Mentality: Oh, I helped create all that? I feel like getting back to work to see what else we can come up with. Think of the possibilities!

2. When we feel less appreciated at work, we want more money for the job. Mentality: Does anybody actually care about my work? “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes,” says Ariely.

3. We feel more proud of our work when the job is harder. Mentality: When you really work hard for something, you appreciate it way more.

4. We can be more motivated when we believe that our jobs really help others. Mentality: I’m doing this for a great cause. Those homeless people/sick children/puppies are really going to love this.

5. We follow rules more when we believe they are in place to help others. Mentality: I’ll pay extra attention to the details in this job because it will help someone else (not my boss or coworkers). It’s called prosocial behavior.

6. Positive reinforcement in our abilities increases performance. Mentality: Oh, you really like my work? That just made my day. =)

7. Images that make us happy help us focus more. Mentality: I don’t know what it is about these cute puppies and kittens, but it’s really making me focus. Look at this baby panda for a mental focus boost.

Source: TED
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