Work is Not a Four-Letter Word

There are several reasons why people work, some of which may surprise you.

With the increased demand for — and diminished supply of — skilled workers, employees have assumed the power position regarding new job opportunities and their overall career paths.

Unfortunately, most companies get it wrong when they look at employees. They often view an employee as someone who hates to work, who wants to avoid work, or will do the bare minimum of work required. Secondarily, employers often focus on the wage the employee will earn and make that the primary basis of the employer/employee relationship.

Savvy companies focus on the experience of work that an employee can provide. They look at reasons why people work and do not assume that employees work only because they have bills to pay. People work for more than just a paycheck. In fact, psychologists believe that there is a true psychological value to a hard, productive day of work.

Here are several reasons why people work, some of which may surprise you.

  • Livelihood, or for the money. People work to provide themselves and their families with the basic essentials for life — food, clothing, and shelter. Once these basic essentials are met, other needs and wants become important.
  • To be challenged. A person’s work can provide an opportunity to learn and grow intellectually and socially. It is a means of attaining new goals in life by developing new skills and learning new things. By working, people strive to reach their fullest potential.
  • For the pleasure, or “the calling” of doing the work. There are many occupations that are known for attracting people, a “calling” in some cases. These are typically jobs that do not pay a great deal of money, but serve the greater good of a community such as a firefighter or teacher. Many people want to do work that matters.
  • For the impact it makes on the world. In almost every job, there is the ability to impact others. A person wants to do work that is beneficial or useful to others. It can be on a grand scale, such as a doctor who saves lives, or on a personal dynamic scale, such as a waiter or waitress who provides a great customer experience. I believe that everyone wants to feel successful at the end of his or her workday.
  • For the reputation you build in the community. When we need a service done in our home or business, we will often request a referral from a trusted resource. Many companies are now paying an internal referral bonus to existing staff members when they refer a new employee. We will refer only people that reflect positively on us.
  • To be part of a group and to experience the mission. Employers who create a cause in the workplace, and align their teams behind that cause, typically create a powerful team. Whether it’s a sports team that takes an “us against the world” approach or a sales organization trying to hit new goals to earn a trip, employees want to rally around something larger than themselves.
  • To be appreciated. This is an area where most businesses fail miserably. One of the main reasons an employee will look for a new job is because they feel unappreciated. The crazy thing is, appreciation typically doesn’t cost an employer any money. A manager who recognizes an employee in front of their peers for a job well done is making that employee feel valued and appreciated. A hand-written note from the CEO to an employee is building morale within that employee.
  • Happiness. Thomas Edison, the great inventor, was once encouraged by his wife to take a vacation. He responded by stating that he “couldn’t think of anything he would rather do than work in his laboratory.” Most people, who choose their occupations wisely, thoroughly enjoy their work.Human relationships. People like companionship. People seek companionship with persons who have interests similar to their own. Working is a means of associating with people who have similar interests. Being part of a group gives people a feeling of belonging. Your work can provide companionship and associations with other persons.
  • Great bosses. Leaders with strong people skills will often have people lining up to work for or with them. Great bosses bring out the very best in their employees. Typically, these bosses will lead by example and will show appreciation of great employee efforts and performance. They also will ask more of employees than employees will ask of themselves, getting those people to exceed self-imposed limitations.
  • Great co-workers. Typically, a great organization is made up of great people. Studies show that the No. 1 reason a person will have longevity at a job is because he or she enjoys spending time with their co-workers. It’s simple, really — great employees will attract more great employees.