The Secret of Getting Ahead in the Workplace
Organizational psychology studies how to fashion work so that employees will enjoy it and want to keep doing it. Recent research has focused on how to encourage employees to feel “engaged” with their work and the company they work for. Engaged employees are more likely to be creative and innovative, which is especially important in our rapidly changing economy. At The Everett Clinic, where I work, employee engagement is so high that our organization has been selected by Fortune magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for in the United States three years in a row.
What is the secret? Opportunities for advancement, appreciation from the top for a job well done, good communication at all levels, core values that are meaningful, incentives that are aligned with job performance, competitive compensation, and the pursuit of “fun” are all important.
Adam Grant, Ph.D., professor at Wharton Business School, is a scholar in the study of workplace dynamics. While he values the above important elements, he has a different view of what motivates employees. In a recent article in the New York Times, Susan Dominus (Is Giving the Secret of Getting Ahead?), describes his outside-of-the-box ideas.
Describing Dr. Grant’s work, she depicts his thesis: “The greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves”. Wow!
Dr. Grant conducted several studies which demonstrated this theory. In one study of a fundraising call center, he had a recipient of the scholarship money that the call center was raising come and talk to the fundraisers about how the money had helped him. After his presentation, the call center raised significantly more money—even though the fundraisers attributed their increased success to other factors.
He has written a book, soon to be published, called “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success” which examines this theory in depth. Dr. Grant looks at “givers” who are exceptionally successful at what they do. They have a high degree of job satisfaction and self-esteem. And, they get promoted and rise to the top of where they work!
As an administrator (I have been the Director of the behavioral health department of The Everett Clinic for 20 years), and as a psychologist, I have observed this every day. Staff and providers who are dedicated to help others are the most engaged employees who have the highest job satisfaction. They are fully engaged in their mission. No one can miss their energy and commitment. They live the core value of “Doing what’s right for the patient”. Despite all the frustrations of working for a large, modern corporation, they love their jobs. And, everyone loves them too!
In addition, I have noticed other employees and providers who seem to be more focused on their own needs and comfort. They often feel frustrated, underappreciated, and unmotivated. They wonder—“Why don’t others see how hard I am working?” According to Dr. Grant they are looking for motivation in the wrong place. It comes from the desire to help others, to be useful, and to contribute to their community.
I remember talking to a friend of mine, a critical care doctor, who sometimes, like everyone else, wasn’t looking forward to going to work on a Monday morning. (Did you ever feel that way?) He would tell himself—“Think of how fortunate I am! I get to go to work and help the sick and injured become whole. I have the good fortune to have a job where I can make a big difference in other people’s lives! I am so lucky!” After reminding himself of his good fortune, his attitude about Monday morning changed 180 degrees!
It is this kind of thinking that motivates us to be the best we can be. This sets the stage for success in whatever we do.
What do you think?