What motivates you to rise with the sun and toil all day at the office may be entirely different from what drives your colleagues. For years, researchers have identified and categorized different types of motivations for work. Now, a new study has delved into the science of it.
First, it helps to understand the three types of motivation the researchers recognize.
First, there are job-oriented workers who "work for the weekend," and mostly value their jobs for extrinsic rewards, aka paychecks. Typical nine-to-five-ers, they see work as one necessary piece in a larger puzzle — a way to pay for their hobbies and home life. They generally do not take their job home with him.
The career-oriented, on the other hand, tend to see work mainly as an opportunity for upward mobility. They find motivation in prestige, social status, and advancement. They may not enjoy the paycheck or work itself as much as they enjoy climbing the socioeconomic ladder.
Finally, calling-oriented workers tend to see their jobs as an integral piece of their identity. Showing up each day isn't about the paycheck, or the status — it's about enjoyment and fulfillment. These workers tend to believe their work makes the world a better place, and are most likely to say they would continue the daily grind even if they won the lottery. This type has the "highest life and work satisfaction...even when income, education, and occupation are at least roughly controlled," a 1997 study from Yale University's Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski found.
These, of course, are not mutually exclusive categories. A calling-oriented worker may still care about advancing in her career, as would a job-oriented worker. But researchers have found that most people lean in one direction pretty clearly — and have an easy time identifying which one.
Furthermore, Wrzesniewski found that most professions attract all three types of workers. Look at doctors, for example. Some may toil through medical school knowing a well-paying job awaits them on the other side; others may be focus on the prestige associated with being a doctor; and still others may simply feel passionately about making sick people healthy.
So what determines what kind of worker you are?
Researchers at University of Michigan's Ross School of Business say you may have your parents to blame. In fact, parents may have a more powerful influence on work attitudes than other factors like profession, religion, or personality. "Socialization during adolescence is the mechanism through which this persistent link is established," said Wayne Baker, professor and chair of management at the school.
Essentially, how adolescents perceive their parents' work ethic will shape their own, says the study. But there are some interesting wrinkles.
Researchers found that career-oriented fathers are more likely to raise career-oriented kids. Indeed, subjects who are close to their fathers during adolescence are more likely to take on their father's orientation, whatever that may be.
Teens who are close to their moms are less likely to grow up job-oriented. But unlike fathers, career-oriented mothers are not anymore likely to raise career-oriented kids.
"The researchers attributed this to generational gender norms," says Quartz's Lauren Davidson. "When the study’s participants were teenagers, mostly in the 1980s, men were more commonly employed outside of the home and were more likely than women to hold 'career' jobs with opportunity for advancement."
In addition, when both parents are calling-oriented, they are more likely to have a calling-oriented child.
Of course, you can't blame everything on Mom and Dad. Other little forces, like, say, your macroeconomic environment or the health of your chosen industry, also play a role. "If you are working in a distressed industry, that tends to swamp the effects of parental influence," Baker said on University of Michigan's news blog. "I think it's hard to think about the higher purpose of your work if you are fearful of losing your job."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 10 things you need to know today: September 23, 2014
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 4 simple steaks you can cook in a pan
- Christians have no moral rationale for spanking their children
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Why does Fareed Zakaria still have a job?
- Does solar energy have a battery problem?
Subscribe to the Week