Thinking About a New Job?

Are you thinking of moving to a new job? If you are, you’re certainly thinking about salary and benefits and other money issues. That’s good, but don’t stop there. To decide if a job is right for you, you must think beyond the money. Start with the lessons we learned from Frederick Herzberg.

Motivation Factors and Hygiene Factors

Frederick Herzberg was an American psychologist. He’s important today because of the work he did on something called “motivator-hygiene theory.” Back in 1968, he wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review titled “One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?” Last time I checked, it was the single most requested article in the history of Harvard Business Review.

Herzberg identified two factors that determine how satisfied we are with work. He called one “hygiene factors.” It includes money and benefits. They’re easy to count and easy to use to keep score, but their power to motivate doesn’t last very long. After the glow wears off, other things matter more than money.

Motivators are different. They were the things that make it great to go to work. If you’ve had a time in your life when it’s great to go to work, you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re thinking about moving to a different job, you need to pay attention to both the hygiene factors and the motivation factors. But just what are those factors? For that, we need to turn to some other research.


Edward Deci and Richard Ryan have been researching these things since the 1970s. They’ve identified three important motivation factors, things that affect you every day and go a long way toward making your job a great one or well-paid drudgery. The motivators are Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence.

Autonomy is the ability to have as much control as you can over your work life. If the job you’re thinking about gives you the ability to make important decisions and choose how the work will be done, it will probably be a job you like. A lot of this depends on your new boss. Will he or she let you make important work decisions?

Relatedness is about being part of a team. We, humans, are social animals, and we work best when we’re part of a team we like and whose members we can trust. You can judge the relatedness of a place by the laughter you hear. The teams we like work hard, but they also laugh a lot. Laughter is the sign of the easy camaraderie that’s common in a great place to work.

Competence is about your ability to do good work and it’s not all about you. Harvard professor Boris Groysberg researched both top-performing stock analysts and corporate executives. He discovered that when these high performers moved to a new situation, their performance often declined.

That’s because the system you work in has a major impact on how well we’re able to perform. That’s one of the key messages of W. Edwards Deming. The Toyota Production System with its emphasis on building productivity by working on the system is an example of how much the system can mean.

Quality of Life

If you take that new job, how will it affect other parts of your life? When you’re excited about a new job, it’s easy to skip over this part. Avoid that temptation.

Imagine a typical day at the work. What will your commute be like? How long will it be? Is parking an issue? Will other people in your life need to do things differently than they do now?

Bottom Line

After the glow wears off, other things matter more than money. If you’re thinking about changing jobs, think beyond the money. Ask and answer the following questions.

  • Will my new boss let me make important decisions about my work and how I do it?
  • Will I enjoy the people I work with?
  • Will my new company support me, so I can do good work?
  • What are the opportunities and resources for personal and professional growth?
  • How will my daily and weekly routines change if I take the position?
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