A motivational look at contracting - Part 1

Why do you go to work?

Is it purely financial? Is it a desire to meet your responsibilities? Maybe you strongly identify with your work role and simply need it? Or is it a chance to escape from something, someone, somewhere?

Individuals have their own very unique configuration of motivators. In Part One, see if you can recognise those drives that are important to you.

Using the classic Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs from the bottom up we have:

Physical Needs: Essentially, we are working to make ourselves feel comfortable. Earning money so that we have enough food, warmth and a place to live. Supermarkets, Power companies and Mortgages come to mind!

Safety Needs: Once our physical needs are being met, we become concerned with our longer-term needs for protection, security and safety. These days we are looking at insurance, savings and pensions. Not to mention, our chosen location to live and the perceived threats in the area - thugs and floods.

Social Needs: I have met many a contractor who thrives on the camaraderie at work. They enjoy extending work relationships into social ones. We all seem to have a need to belong, and this may be met by identifying with our team, department or project.

Esteem Needs: This is our need to be recognised for our work; perhaps to achieve a certain status amongst our colleagues. Work can be the place we excel and enjoy the praise and rewards that come from that. It's no secret that recognition is often stated as being more important than money in workplace satisfaction surveys.

Actualisation Needs: This is the pinnacle of Maslow's pyramid for good reason. It is our need to fully be ourselves and to express our potential. We explore this more in Part Two: How we might go about bringing more of ourselves into work.

So there we have one classic model of motives. Which ones ring true for you? For most people, it's a mix. Yet knowing which ones do feel important for us, and their priority, can help us make better decisions about the kind of contracts we take.

Values - Meaning-less to Meaning-full

Another way of looking at motivation is to see it in terms of what is important to us, namely our values.

You may have had the experience of working on a project, which simply has no heart for you. Alternatively, you may also have fallen out with the work you do. Many contractors get trapped by their own competence, in that they become hired for what they are good at, yet find it utterly boring, simply because it has lost all challenge for them.

This is a dreadful place to be with no obvious way out except resignation. Yet contractors once again feel trapped by their responsibilities (Physical/Safety Needs) and feel they have to stay.

There is another way to approach this, which will be a way through for some. When there isn't any meaning in a task, we must put it there ourselves! How? By choosing to see the task in terms of what is meaningful to us. Sounds simple and it is, but it also requires a willingness to find our own value, not depend on others.

This could be as simple as focussing on the care you take, or the quality of the work. It might be you decide to challenge yourself on how quickly you can complete it. You might focus on creatively figuring out a way to shorten, or re-design the task. There are many different ways to put the meaning into your work, should you choose to.

In Part 2, we will look at how to flip your whole approach to work and make it about yourself.

John Waine, The IT Coach