What’s the Big Idea?
What motivates you to get up every morning and go to work? To earn a buck? Sure. But that is not always the most powerful motivator, says Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, who studies the psychology of everyday work life.
In fact, seemingly mundane events can either make or break an employee’s “inner work life,” Amabile argues in a new book she co-authored called The Progress Principle. Amabile argues that removing obstacles to progress, such as meaningless tasks and toxic relationships, are key to employee engagement and job satisfaction.
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What’s the Significance?
According to Amabile, managers need to “figure out how to support everyday progress,” which is measured by “small wins,” as opposed to huge daily breakthroughs. In other words, these wins may seem incremental, “almost trivial on the face of it,” Amabile says. And yet, these successes can have “an enormous positive impact on people’s everyday inner work life.”
One clear example Amabile sites is a programmer she calls “Tom” who was working on a complex program for an important software client. For almost an entire frustrating week Tom struggled to fix a bug. When he finally “smashed” it, he was all “hyped.” Unfortunately a number of his team members were out of the office that day so Tom had to celebrate his small win in “solitary smugness.”
While this small win may not have been a big deal in the grand scheme of things, Amabile points out that it was certainly a big deal the day that it happened. “He was at the very top of the scale that day in his emotions,” Amabile says. And as her research shows, people in Tom’s position are not only happier and more engaged, but ultimately more creative and productive at work.
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