motivationAccording to the Gallup produced 2013 “State of the American Workplace Report,” only 30% of the U.S. workforce was found to be engaged at work, leaving 70% of employees not engaged or actively disengaged. While there are many factors that contribute to an employee’s engagement level in the workplace, I believe one of the underlying issues is personal motivation.

So what is employee motivation? Quite simply it is what drives a person’s actions and behaviors, can be either external or internal, and typically has a direct impact on overall performance and job satisfaction. To break it down, an internally motivated employee takes ownership of an activity or task for its own sake without any external reward or compulsion. This self-motivation may be ignited when employees complete activities where they are able to be creative and utilize personal skills and talents.

On the other hand, the behavior of externally motivated employees is based on factors outside of themselves, such as salary, affirmation, promotions, working conditions, and recognition. These factors are typically determined by the company and fall outside of the employee’s control. Having identified both types of motivation, it is important to note that studies have shown the best results occur within a workplace when employees have internal motivation, as they are typically working in accordance to their personal values.

Author Daniel H. Pink discusses the counterintuitive consequences of extrinsic incentives in his book Drive: “Rewards can perform a weird sort of behavioral alchemy: They can transform an interesting task into a drudge. They can turn play into work. And by diminishing intrinsic motivation, they can send performance, creativity, and even upstanding behavior toppling like dominoes.”

So, why should motivation matter to you as a job seeker? Well, if you have not yet found it, you are in search of a position that will yield personal fulfillment. With that being said, there are several factors to consider when weighing out a position. While, yes, salary and benefits, both external motivators, will play an important role in your decision, be certain to personally reflect on your internal motivations as well.

Pink goes on to state that engaged employees have well-defined roles in a company, make strong contributions, are actively connected to a larger team and organization, and are continuously progressing. Always remember, external motivation is temporary. Thus, you must consider what internally motivates you when weighing the pros and cons of a future position. Otherwise, you will find that your 3 o’clock coffee break may help you complete a task, though does not provide you with the boost, or motivation, you need to feel internally satisfied.

By Kristen Carter, GCDF, Career Coach at American Public University

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