Summit Team Building

What To Do When You’ve Lost Your Motivation for Work

motivation for work

At this point, we suspect that to say that so much has changed in the way we work would be stating the obvious. Still, we’re going to say it, because it’s too true – so much of our working lives are radically different than it was three years ago.

Beyond Burnout

Fittingly, the problems we face today often feel…unprecedented, if you’ll allow us to use that word one last time (we promise). People have been leaving their jobs in droves, having mentally checked out months ago. Many of us who decide to stay are burned out from having stared at a screen around the clock for the past two years. Fresh ideas and new initiatives are slowly drying up, and we clock in and out passively until a better opportunity presents itself.

Without a doubt, our burnout problem is widespread. Tackling burnout requires us to prioritize our physical, psychological, and emotional well-being, as we’ve covered in our previous series. Our conversation about burnout would be lacking, however, if we don’t also take some time to talk about the motivation problem that we face.

Rethinking Motivation for Work

Before you get all up in arms at us, we are not calling you unmotivated. What we’re trying to say here is this: with all of the changes happening in our working lives over the past few years, it’s time for us to revisit the question of how we can better motivate ourselves and each other in this new world of work, dominated by remote or hybrid work.

One of the biggest problems of hybrid or remote that we’ve learned from the clients we’ve worked with over the past few years is that it can – still – be so isolating. At the core, we are social beings, so it should come as no surprise to us when we lose our motivation when working in an environment that’s often void of social connection.

So what should you do when you’ve realized that you’ve lost your motivation for work? Reach out and get connected.

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The Power of Connection

In a brand-new review of the current research on motivation, organizational psychology guru Adam Grant puts forth the idea that “work motivation is inherently social: we are motivated by our competitors, colleagues, clients, customers, friends, and even complete strangers.”

Why? The research tells us that when we leverage the power of social connections as motivation for work, three things happen.

  • First, we begin to take advantage of the power of competition. Having a healthy rivalry at work motivates us to work harder, smarter, and longer in order to take our work to the next level.
  • Second, we draw on our inherent desire to contribute to, help and benefit others. In a 2021 study of intensive care nurses over five days of the pandemic, Zhu and associates found that nurses’ sense of purpose and desire to help boosted the intensity and persistence of their work.
  • Finally, we leverage the power of the contagion effect. No, not the medical kind you’re thinking about, but what happens when the effort of one person impacts those around them. When we work closely with and get connected to other high-performing colleagues, their level of output and effort tends to motivate us to rise to their level (i.e., what they call spillover).

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When we look throughout history, it becomes clear that some of our greatest achievements were motivated by social relationships. Stephen King, for example, only published his first novel after his wife rescued the first few pages from the garbage and encouraged him to keep writing.

The lesson here is this: if you find yourself lacking the motivation to do good work, make an effort to reach out and build a sense of connection with others. We’re confident that the more connection you build into your working life, the more likely you’ll recapture your motivation for work.

So yes, give your colleague a call today.

We’re Here to Help

We at Summit are dedicated to helping you build a connected workforce. We believe that relationships are the #1 ingredient to high performing individuals, teams, and ultimately – organizations. Contact us to learn how our programs can uniquely help your team and organization get connected and motivated to do their best work.

Lewis Lau

With a BA in Psychology and MA in Applied Health Sciences from Brock University, Lewis has spent the past decade reviewing and conducting original empirical research on leadership and team development. He is especially passionate about drawing applicable and relevant insights from current and credible empirical studies from various disciplines, and believes high-quality, intersectional research should inform best practices.

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