Consider this scenario that is acted out in workplaces every day:
You need to leave on time for once because of family plans. It’s busy at work and your boss says, “Well I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been the sort of person who doesn’t watch the clock at work because I prefer to just get the work done”. It stings because your self-image has always been that of a hard-worker but there is nothing in the current situation or workplace that motivates you to stay late. What has changed? Is it you? Is it the job?
Getting to understand your own values helps to answer with confidence about the balance you have between commitments to work and to other parts of your life and what you need in order to give more time to work. As a manager, knowing your employees values helps you negotiate for the flexibility and extra effort you may need for a project.
Understanding what are core expectations for your position is the starting point. While you might have regular work hours, some contracts have language that requires a flexible schedule or extra hours in peak periods. It is only when we are asked to exceed the language in our agreement that we need to consider where our boundaries lie. While we like to give ourselves labels like “dedicated”, healthy individuals have limits about the amount and type of work they are willing to do on their own time and the conditions under which they find it reasonable to put in extra hours. If you don’t know your own priorities you could find yourself agreeing to work you’ll resent or saying “no” to an opportunity that might be congruent with your goals. Neither of these outcomes is good for you or the workplace.
What motivates you to take work home, put in hours over the weekend, or stay late to finish a project? For me I know that I will volunteer to work on projects that involve learning new skills that are congruent with my goals and interests. I’ll also burn the midnight oil for a project that I’m given ownership of that I can add to my resume folder in future. Affirmation goes a long way with me also. Even if there is nothing in it for me, I’ll do extras when I feel appreciated.
As a manager, you need to know what your employees value and use that understanding to motivate appropriately. This is a part of values-based management.
- Employees motivated by financial security will go the extra mile for raises, promotions, contract renewal
- Employees with a thirst for learning will be motivated by staff training or time for taking on new work with steep learning curves
- Those with interests outside of work, family, hobbies, enjoying nature will be motivated by time-off in lieu of overtime hours
- Praise, recognition, and simple thank-yous motivate most of us, but are often the most neglected motivational tool in the management toolbox.