Laura Graves and her colleagues set out to remedy this, examining three areas that motivation could influence. The team approached managers on a 5-day leadership program, 357 of whom consented to complete a questionnaire probing how much they enjoyed work, and were driven by it. They also rated two outcome measures: career satisfaction and current psychological strain. A third key measure was work performance, determined by ratings by those who knew the manager: peers, superiors, direct reports, and others in the organisation.
Managers who reported more enjoyment of work were better performers, experienced less strain and were more satisfied with their careers; good news for them. But higher self-ratings of 'driven to work' were unrelated to these areas; it didn't help, but neither did it hinder. In fact, being driven to work actually helped maintain performance when the enjoyment motive was lacking. However, under that set of conditions psychological strain did increase, suggesting that the obligation motivation can be a blunt instrument of achieving performance when nothing else is available, but it comes at a cost.
This research is important in reinforcing the benefits of a workforce intrinsically stimulated by its daily activities. The effects of enjoying work can be interpreted in terms of positive mood that increases cognitive capacity through a broaden-and-build effect, and by ensuring that goals achieved are personally meaningful and thereby satisfying. But these findings also suggest that a traditional, obligation-focused mindset isn't calamitous and can be productive – for the organisation, at least - when interesting work is lacking. Findings like this remind us that if we want to move to a world of more fulfilling, happier employment, we shouldn't allow our arguments to solely rely on the organisation's short-term self-interest.