I just started another Clayton Christiansen book, How Will You Measure Your Life? I think I’m going to like it, though I do have trouble getting through non-fiction, business books (as opposed to fiction business books?). Chapter two is entitled “What Makes Us Tick?” Wow, heavy. I enjoy considering ideas of job satisfaction, personal calling, and passion around what you do. Clayton distinguishes between hygiene factors at work (siting work done by Frederick Herzberg)—things like status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company polices and supervisory practices—and motivation factors—things like challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. Fixing hygiene items doesn’t necessarily lead to job satisfaction, but fixing those does lead to the lack of job dissatisfaction. Herzberg argued that motivation is not about these external factors, but “much more about what’s inside of you, and inside of your work.”
Okay, so you can read the book, too. But let me personalize it. I think about the times in my career when I was challenged, valued and making a huge contribution. During those times I have been most satisfied. The hygiene issues just weren’t so important. I was in the zone because I was truly motivated by my work. And the opposite has been true as well—I have had times when I felt undervalued, directionless, not growing. At those times I complain about pay, and working conditions, and who’s not doing what. I really don’t like those latter times and cherish the former.
My colleague Jim Clawson talks about asking yourself the question: how do you want to feel (see Powered by Feel, by James G. Clawson)? Well, I personally want to feel like I am building, creating, connecting and energizing. (I think Jim might say that’s close—those aren’t really feel words, but I’m trying, okay?)
So, the advice section: take charge of the way you (I) want to feel. When you are looking for a job, make sure you are looking at it for motivation factors, not hygiene ones. This concept is so hard for the newly minted MBA. With a large debt load and peer pressure, one generally looks at compensation as the most important factor in choosing a job. And when you reach those crossroads in your career, when the wrong issues (hygiene ones) start becoming overly important, examine why. Are you still motivated? If not, figure out why, seek answers, make a change. I remember at one really low point in my career, a very close and insightful colleague said to me: “you need to leave, this place is changing you, not in a good way.” Like a 2X4 across the head. And I made a change four months later.
Don’t wait for the 2X4.