Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?

An interesting TED talk about job motivation by Dan Ariely.

What interests me the most about this is that we, as a human race, seem to be motivated by the work instead of easy rewards. In psychology, it’s called the effort justification paradigm (cognitive dissonance). The cognitive dissonance theory states that if you have two conflicting beliefs, your brain strives to align them. Effort justification is just what it sounds like, wherein if you put in a lot of hard work for something, you end up liking it more than you would have if you hadn’t worked so hard for it in order to justify putting in all the effort. This means that the best way to stay motivated by work is to work hard, making the rewards more desirable in our minds.

Something else Ariely talks about is simple recognition of work. This is something the leaders of the company must do; even a simple nod to acknowledge the completion of a task is more motivating than ignoring the work–even if the work is no longer relevant, etc. It will help motivate employees for their next tasks.

Seemingly common sense, but a fascinating talk that serves to remind us of things we may have forgotten (or to spell out things we could have figured out but hadn’t thought of yet).


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