- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
With salary freezes, layoffs, longer hours, and more work, there have been plenty of articles about how employers are trying to motivate employees.
While reading about these tactics, I found myself thinking about how my jobs (as a middle school teacher and now in the nonprofit sector) have been very similar to the way things are now in many businesses: longer hours, more work, fewer resources, lower compensation.
That said, I’ve loved all of my jobs in spite of the fact that I’ve never had a manager make me a waffle breakfast. So if it’s not the waffles, what is it?
One thing is obviously the work: for me, mission-focused jobs are incredibly motivating in and of themselves. But it can’t just be the mission. The main commonality in the jobs where I felt motivated and satisfied was a strong culture of appreciation.
Teaching can be full of moments of appreciation from parents, kids, and fellow teachers. During my job at Idealist, figuring out why I felt appreciated was a bit trickier. It’s not that I didn't feel as though my colleagues and manager recognized and appreciated my efforts (quite the opposite), but the examples weren’t as concrete as a phone call from a parent or a note from a former student thanking you for something you taught them.
We didn’t have a very effusive office culture in the Portland Idealist office: hugs, appreciation circles, and glittery thank you notes with butterflies or kittens were rare at best. However, while there weren’t constant compliments, I also never doubted that my efforts are appreciated. My manager, Russ Finkelstein, was a master at this. He lets me know when I’ve done something really well, but more often, shows how much he respects my work by soliciting (and listening to) my opinion regularly and allowing me to take on bigger and bigger responsibilities.
This has allowed me to not only feel appreciated, but motivated to do the absolute best I can, even if it involves longer hours, more work, fewer resources, lower compensation, and there’s not a gift card in sight.
What about you? Do you feel motivated in your current job? What makes you feel appreciated? Are things different now with the economy?
This post is one in a mini-series by Meg Busse for our Nonprofit Jobs Series with advice on working in the nonprofit sector. Meg was Idealist.org's Coordinator of High School and College Career Transitions from 2007-2010, and co-authored Guide to Nonprofit Careers.