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Posts Tagged ‘engagement’

In Pink’s book (see previous post), he discusses 3 elements of “true” motivation: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Interestingly, the concept of passion for one’s job is not mentioned (not even listed in the Index). Shortly after reading Pink’s book, I decided to follow up by reading some of the sources he cites in his book, and in the course of doing so, stumbled across an interesting article, “A Tale of Passion: Linking Job Passion and Cognitive Engagement to Employee Work Performance”, by Violet Ho et. al. (Journal of Management Studies, 2009).

Here’s a broad overview of some the main concepts explored in the article:

Click on image for larger view

The authors argue for a “more rigorous definition, conceptualization, and operationalization of the job passion construct” and also provide empirical evidence to validate their ideas.

First, the authors give a more nuanced definition of job passion as “an attitude that comprises both affective and cognitive elements” that can be distinguished into two distinct forms, harmonious and obsessive passion.  They then hypothesize the relationship between passion and performance, proposing that “cognitive engagement is the mediating mechanism” through which this relationship coheres.

Based on their conceptualization of job passion, for my current role, I cannot say that I am passionate about my job, since I would have to have a “strong, intense liking for and enjoyment of the job” and that the job is very significant to me, to the point of defining (to a large degree) who I am.  They then disambiguate their definition of passion by arguing that it is related to, but distinct from such concepts as:

  • intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Deci and Ryan, cited by Pink)
  • flow (Csikszentmihalyi, cited by Pink)
  • work-related attitudinal constructs such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job involvement and identification

They also distinguish obsessive passion from workaholism in its various forms, noting that most researchers view workaholism as “an attitude that encompasses high work involvement and drive but low enjoyment“.  (I’m not so sure I see the distinction, but oh well.)

Drawing from psychology, specifically, role investment theory, the authors note that “employees will invest their cognitive attention and time in a role they find important and pleasurable (i.e. a role that they are passionate about), because it provides them with a source of self-esteem and self-actualization”. Furthermore, “based on the utilitarian perspective, people tend to invest more time and effort in roles that they find enjoyable and pleasurable because of basic hedonistic tendencies”.

The authors postulate 4 hypotheses which they then go on to validate with empirical research:

Hypothesis 1a: Harmonious passion is positively related to cognitive absorption.
Hypothesis 1b: Harmonious passion is positively related to cognitive attention.

Hypothesis 2a: Obsessive passion is negatively related to cognitive absorption.
Hypothesis 2b: Obsessive passion is negatively related to cognitive attention.

Hypothesis 3a: Cognitive absorption is positively related to work performance.
Hypothesis 3b: Cognitive attention is positively related to work performance.

Hypothesis 4a: Cognitive absorption and attention mediate the relationship between harmonious passion and work performance.
Hypothesis 4b: Cognitive absorption and attention mediate the relationship between obsessive passion and work performance.

Based on their findings, the authors note some practical implications. First, because “a core characteristic of harmonious passion is employees’ valuation and voluntary internalization of the job, one way to develop harmonious passion is to increase employees’ interest in and valuation of their jobs, which in turn can be accomplished by fostering conditions that make workers feel that they and their contributions matter. For example, previous research suggests that some of these conditions include empowering workers to make their own decisions, designing work to be meaningful and stimulating, and offering positive feedback about the import of the work they do and their contributions to the firm”.

The first suggestion they make, “empowering workers to make their own decisions”,  relates to Pink’s Autonomy.  In my current role, I think I have a decent measure of freedom as far as decision-making w.r.t. my day-to-day tasks.  As to their second point, “designing work to be meaningful and stimulating”, I’m not sure that’s always possible. I can’t say that the work I do in my current role is all that “meaningful and stimulating”.  Finally, to their last point, which is of special interest to me, since I am volunteering this year to be part of a team to help improve employee engagement, specifically with respect to recognition.  The authors note that:

positive feedback that is unanticipated and is an indicator of one’s competence would enhance the employee’s valuation of the job, implying that it would enhance harmonious passion. However, if positive feedback comes to be an expected outcome of the employee’s job and a focal reason for the employee to continue doing well, this could instead lead to a pressured internalization of the job and, in turn, the development of obsessive passion, where the job becomes valued not because of its inherent characteristics but because of outcomes and rewards attached to it. Hence, while the provision of positive feedback is a potentially effective strategy in developing employees’ passion for their jobs, we counsel against its indiscriminate and excessive use.

In other words, recognition shouldn’t given in a trite fashion or for trivial accomplishments.  More could be said about recognition, but that is the subject for another post.

In summary then, the article clearly demonstrates the link between passion, engagement and performance.  Not exactly surprising, but it is a nice supplement to Pink’s book, addressing a factor that he omitted.

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What Motivates You?

Recently, a group of us at work received a copy of Daniel Pink’s most recent book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, with the idea that we would meet to discuss the book after everyone had read it.  Unfortunately, that idea seems to have fallen by the wayside.  I was going to write a brief review of the book, but after watching this video again the other day (I had originally seen it before I read the book), I’m not so sure that I could add much to what was covered in the video:  it really was well done!  Check it out:

I may post a few additional comments or questions, however, once I skim over the book again (it’s been almost 2 months since I read it).

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