Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have been analyzing 12,000 diary entries created by hundreds of employees in many different organizations in an attempt to understand inner work life: “the conditions that foster positive emotions, strong internal motivation, and favorable perceptions of colleagues and the work itself.” It is about the work, not the “accoutrements.” Meaningful work, clear goals, autonomy, help, and resources are the required elements identified in their new book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. “And it depends on showing respect for ideas and the people who create them.”
Their work has revealed that “…people are more creative and productive when they are deeply engaged in the work, when they feel happy, and when they think highly of their projects, coworkers, managers, and organizations.” They were also startled to learn that 95% of the hundreds of managers they surveyed misunderstood the most important source of employee motivation and ranked “supporting progress” least important.
Thinking back over my own career my inner work life has clearly been “joyful” in those situations where I felt good about the work I was doing, had the resources with which to be effective, and the trust of my supervisor to do the work. I still remember going to the best supervisor I ever had with a problem to her expecting her to tell me how to solve it. When she asked me what solution I would suggest, I was startled and delighted! That expectation of autonomy was huge to my attitude about my work.
So what can we do to ignite that joy, engagement, and creativity? What have you done today to improve the inner work life of your staff and coworkers?
From Series: DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, August 1975, National Archives Identifier 557882