Many individuals derive their passion for work from within themselves. Instead of merely working for a paycheck, they find genuine joy in the work itself. This drive to succeed through enjoyment, known as intrinsic motivation, is increasingly prominent in today’s workplaces. It goes beyond mere routine; it entails finding fulfillment in what one does, resulting in persistence and positive job performance. Additionally, it can significantly influence how employees interact within their workplaces.

CU Denver professor Dr. Mijeong Kwon investigates how intrinsic motivation shapes social interactions at work, with a particular focus on the American professional landscape. In the United States, employees often celebrate career-oriented passion. It’s a badge of honor to love what you do. However, in many other countries, proficiency and job stability often take precedence over sheer passion for the work. This cultural difference highlights how sources of motivation can markedly vary from one place to another, challenging the notion that workplace passion is a universal driver of success.

While evidence suggests that intrinsic motivation enhances prosocial behaviors such as helping coworkers, Dr. Kwon made an intriguing suggestion. She proposed that individuals with higher levels of intrinsic motivation are more likely to view their personal drive to work as a moral virtue. For these people, deriving genuine satisfaction from one’s job may be seen as an indicator of one’s moral character. This perspective may cause passionate employees to offer more help to colleagues who share their zealous approach compared to those who don’t align with it.

To test these hypotheses, Dr. Kwon and her colleagues conducted a survey of about 800 employees in 185 teams within a large Latin American company. Additionally, they carried out a series of studies involving over 1,500 online participants. The aim of the research was to investigate whether individuals with strong intrinsic motivation for their work are more inclined to offer assistance to their intrinsically motivated colleagues. Furthermore, they aimed to measure the extent to which intrinsic motivation is associated with perceptions of one’s moral character.

According to Dr. Kwon, the results supported her initial theory: “People who love their work connect this love for work with being morally right moralized intrinsic motivation.” Additionally, “The more people view loving their work as a sign of being morally right, the more critical they become of external rewards, such as money or praise.”

In summary, Dr. Kwon’s research unveils a captivating and significant insight into how people perceive passion in the contemporary American workforce: those genuinely passionate about their work are more inclined to support like-minded individuals, believing that this passion is indicative of one’s moral character.

What is the primary takeaway?

 “We need to embrace the various motivations people have for working to foster an inclusive and productive workspace,” advises Dr. Kwon. One motivator for working is not superior to another, and an open mind should be encouraged, both within and outside the workplace. For more information on Dr. Kwon and her colleagues’ research, you can read this article in the Harvard Business Review.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

CU Denver

Business School

1475 Lawrence Street

Denver, CO 80202


CU in the City logo
%d bloggers like this: