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Employee Motivation is Binary: The Rise / Fall of Engagement

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 by in ThiNK First | 2 comments


Innocence sees no boundaries. Innocence has no sense of scale. Looking at the world through fresh eyes is such a joy.

A fresh spirit knows not the length of the road ahead, nor the steepness of the climb.

Innocence believes in the possibility of overnight success.

Over time we construct walls, we build our own limitations. We live well inside our comfort zone. We reign in our dreams.

Sometimes when this happens it’s time to move on. To start again.

Sometimes we fall into new things, we’re accidentally innocent.  This post argues we can recreate that innocence and excitement. We don’t have to accept the walls that we construct in our minds.

I’ve blogged about innocence and engagement before.

Recently I was on #tchat and the topic was “onboarding” – the ingraciation of new employees. On-borging might be a more sceptical term!  I jumped into the conversation and made the connection between onboarding new users and onboarding new hires.

Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.

I think a lot about onboarding new users for Listly and the topic was top of mind.

Onboarding is a time of optimism, possibility and extreme learning. My observation was that companies should seek to elongate the onboarding process. It’s akin to the honeymoon period, where all is rosy and all things are possible. Onboarding is a time of mutual exchanges. New hires have things to learn, but equally so does the company. New hires bring fresh perspective and energy.

And then it struck me. Our motivations are binary. There are two states to our motivations.

  • Our motivations are rising. Were positive about our job
  • Our motivation are falling. Our sentiment is negative. We are becoming open to change.
Our motivations are never steady state. Plateaus are a fallacy. Plateaus are inflection points. The moment right when we change, where we flip. If you aren’t on-boarding ,you’re off-boarding.
We are either rising to become more and more engaged or we’re falling and ceasing to be as engaged as we once had been.

If you aren’t falling more and more in love with your work, you are falling out of love. Consciously or subconsciously, if you start to freewheel with your job, you are slowly but surely disengaging.

It’s got little to do with work actually. It’s just human nature. We also fall in love with people, ideas and products in much the same way.

We’re loving them more. Or loving them less. You’re on the rise or on the fall. This simple truth applies to just about everything in life.

Look for it in yourself. Look for in in others and the way they respond to you (personally and to your brand).

I think there’s a lot of truth to this idea. What do you think?

So keep your work life exciting.  Keep imagining you just joined, you just met, you just purchased.

Better yet: fire and rehire yourself.

Keep imagining you just met that special person in your life. Remeet them. Relive and revisit those things that inspire you.

Imagine your iPad is brand new. Relisten to your favorite band or song. Recherish a special friend.

Re-enjoy your favourite shoes as if  they were fresh from the store.

We can understand our brains sometimes better than our brains can understand us. Yes, we can play tricks on our emotions. This is one instance where we can use that knowledge to our advantage.

Imagination is a powerful tool-use it wisely.

I recently read Seligman’s new book Flourish. I love positive psychology. I sense there is huge value in appreciating where you are with the things in your life that consume you. I hope your motivations are rising on these things or people.

I guess my thinking from this is apply and reapply “onboard” thinking to your life.  Re-find your passion. Remind yourself why you love what you love. Spend a moment to appreciate that. Become a newcomer once again. Innocence is a wonderful force to use for good in your life.

Image Credit: D Sharon Pruitt via and Creative Commons


Nick Kellet (164 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at and


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