The 100-100 Divide

face-offIn a perfect work environment we give 100% and our company gives 100%. Of course this never happens because we make choices based on how well we think we are treated. If your company didn’t give you a promotion, that you thought you deserved, would you still work as hard the next day?


Wow, big shock.

When your manager/boss sees that you just don’t have the pep that you once had, they also pull back their desire to help you. This creates a divide that leaves everyone searching for answers

You may pull back and only give 75% of your energy, maybe taking slightly longer breaks or surfing Amazon for a new book. Your company wants you to work harder, but they’ve seen this reaction 700 times before and they don’t try to open a conversation to improve the disconnect.

Now that you’ve pulled back to 75% and no one cares, you realize that you can pull back to 50%.

You’re now working at 50% of your capacity because you can. You avoid work on some days and accomplish a lot on others, but on average you are giving 50% of your energy.

Your employer is troubled, but thinks it’s probably just a phase and before they do anything about it they realize that they’ve just created your expectations about what kind of work you need to do to get by.

Only 50%

You are caught in the 50% working cycle and you’ve become complacent. You don’t want to go above and beyond because it doesn’t get you anywhere. Your employer has accepted your average work and you’ve found that you can get by without giving all of your effort.

There is no reason to change because everyone is comfortable right where they are at. Wrong!

Are you happy with your job? Do you look forward to coming in every morning? Is your boss satisfied with your production? Does s/he praise you for a job well done?

The answers to these questions are most likely no.

So now what?

Would you be satisfied with your personal relationships if you only gave 50% of your love? Probably not. You give your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, children and friends 100% of the love that is within you because it feels good.

It’s time to increase your effort for your own health and the company’s. The Japanese consider work a privilege that should be used to its maximum potential. To waste one’s resources is to waste an opportunity.

Motivation from within

You can have someone give you more money or be a cheerleader, but none of it will work unless you’ve become emotionally invested in the company. You have to care about the outcome of the project as if it was a part of you.

You can do this by finding the right angle.

Companies understand that when they hire a person with children that he is going to work hard to support his children. He can’t fail.

A person with a trust fund and no attachments may not feel the same amount of pressure to get the job done well, unless he has become emotionally attached in a different way. Maybe he has something to prove to his parents, that he can do it on his own.

Whatever it is that motivates a person, it must connect from within them.

Your job plays an important role in getting your emotions in line. If you have a passion for money then working as a social worker won’t fit your needs. You have to understand what job will fulfill your needs.

For most people the job is not the problem. You may have a job that fulfills some of your needs, but not all of them. That’s okay.

I don’t know anyone who gives 100% all day long.

There needs to be down-time or me-time. If you can get your emotions to become 85% to 95% invested then you have a chance to improve your work day and the value that you provide the company. This is not easy to do when you’ve started at a job at a high energy level, like most people do, then dropped off because your expectations weren’t met.

The Switch

Making the switch from “what are they doing for me” to “what can I do for them” is the hardest part in a wealthy society. We expect to be given everything. Google provides a free t-shirt if an employee doesn’t have time to do laundry.

They also have on-site health care, dental care, laundry service, gym, and so much more. They do this because they understand that if they give, the employee will give back even more. Most companies don’t do this, so you need to find another angle to get yourself motivated.

You need to create an attitude of generosity within yourself. Give until you’ve reached that subjective 90% threshold and see what happens.

You’ll notice that people will treat you better and your manager will trust you with more work. Yes, you will get more responsibility, but this will most likely create more emotional involvement, which will create more happiness.

When you are given too much work, you must be ready to say “no” only when necessary. You don’t want to overwork and exhaust yourself.

An individual must use their own discretion to determine when to give more and when to learn to say “no.” There is no black and white answer that will solve your work woes. I wish that I could give you a pill and you would love your job. Well, not really, because I would be taking away half of the fun.

The solution to the work happiness puzzle is within you. You just need to take the time to mess with the pieces until you find the right fit.

This will not be an easy adjustment, especially if you leave your co-workers behind at that 50% threshold. If you do, you may create jealousy within yourself and them.

I’ve seen this backfire at other companies. The employee picks up his work energy and the people around him mock his new attitude. Then he gives up and rejoins the pack. Or he picks up his work energy and misses the lower stress work-style.

He sustains his energy for a couple of weeks then falls back to the pack. It’s hard to sustain the motivation that is required to improve your work environment.

New Mentality

Managers are vital to a good company because they can set the rules for the department and make hard work fun while encouraging everyone to join the new mentality of their co-workers.

If you want to stay at your job, you must have a plan to increase your motivation slowly.

Talk to your boss and ask for a little more responsibility, or try encouraging the group to try something new. You can become more engaged and happier at your job if you apply a little pressure in the right emotional places.

If one plan doesn’t work then try again until you’ve found the right combination. If nothing else, you’ll take some valuable information with you to your next job.

Your work is constantly changing and you’ll have to adapt. If you do increase your work involvement I won’t guarantee that you’ll get paid more (although it will probably happen). But I will guarantee that you will get more job satisfaction than ever before.

*Are you on Twitter? Then check me out at @workhappynow. I give stress relief tips, happiness ideas, and thought provoking quotes.

* Pamela Slim of Escape Cubicle Nation wrote a really cool post celebrating all the hard work  people have done to break out of the corporate world. It’s called Come see the wonderful things my people accomplished this year! We have to celebrate our hard work and that means bragging about how hard other’s worked to reach their goals.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like this one too:

How do I make my people happy?

12 thoughts on “The 100-100 Divide”

  1. I don’t think anybody ever wins when they don’t light their own fire, even if the system doesn’t seem to reward them. In fact, that’s a sign that your motivation is external instead of internal and that’s a dangerous road.

    Great points on discretionary choices. In a world of knowledge workers, this is huge. It’s why influence without authority is such a key skill.

  2. Hi Karl – This is so timely. My husband works for the State of California, and for the past year employees have had to take furloughs and lose about 14% of their pay. Morale is at an all-time low. And just a few days ago the governor declared that although furloughs will end in July, a 10% pay cut will take their place. As much as I believe in everything you say here, it’s so hard for people to reach for that 90% threshold when they feel their employer is using them as a punching bag. (Sorry, I guess I needed to whine a little today).

  3. Hi Karl! SO true about making that switch from “what can they do for me” to “what can I do for them”! For years I went thru one company after another getting sold or the other nightmare “restructured”. Morale always sucked, rumors were the daily bread. By my third go-round with this (ugh) I flipped that switch and created my OWN morale. It actually caught on! That is, of course, after me getting a lot of looks for being so chipper!

  4. Wow, really great article, Karl — thorough and thought-provoking. I also loved JD’s comment.

    My boss used to say that money wasn’t a great motivator, but if people felt they weren’t earning what they were worth, it could be a great de-motivator. Interesting and a very fine line there.

    I was always emotionally driven to succeed not for myself, or money, but for the good people I worked with. Most of them were my friends, and if I ever chose to slack off, I felt it could harm them. That’s not to say I wasn’t self-centered at times, because I certainly was! But the love I felt for my coworkers got me through even the toughest times and was a good motivator.

    And actually, I’ve seen studies that say that even more powerful than money, a pat on the back (recognition) is all most employees want.
    In terms of “we get what we give,” I like the idea of giving our bosses well deserved accolades, too, from time to time, because truly the leadership of a company in many cases has it tougher than most people think. My former boss had a cash flow worry wrinkle across his forehead. It was obvious that he gave up a lot of sleep worrying if, during the lean years, he could make payroll for the people whose livelihoods depended on him. Not easy… Not easy at all.

  5. Karl, you’ve really nailed a huge factor and things that contribute to self motivation here. I used to be motivated by achievement where my results by my own actions kept me producing and moving towards that 100%, but I focus now on what I give out to others and serve first. This is so much easier to stay motivated by and service applies in other areas of my life now as well so its not just my work any longer yet I have the self motivation to always put in my best efforts.

    You’ve covered a lot of the struggles most people have in finding motivation and trying to stay motivated. Most people are really just so short term focused, if immediate results don’t happen, then they drop back to lower engagement rates. That is what is sad, people just don’t often stick to it long enough to see the impact of such a change.

  6. Karl,
    I believe the word you’re thinking of is “Entitlement.” We believe we’re entitled to certain rewards, things etc. in life and it’s the fastest way to unhappiness. What ever happened to going the extra mile? I think our economy is going to give us a lot of lessons that we can choose to grow from or not. The best place to begin is where ever you are!

  7. What you have stated here are important aspects to consider in our work. However, I believe that when a person is not passionate about what he’s doing, motivation is likely impossible. Perhaps we could do our best in our work, but not for the work itself but for the sake of our responsibility to the people who is expecting from us. 🙂

  8. Staffing Agency Philippines

    You write articles that are very important more especially to the working people. You provide them tips on how to coup up or adapt to the working environment.

    I know, sometimes our expectations sometimes didn’t come to reality. So just like what other articles I’ve read, look at the brighter side instead.

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  11. Most people who are extremely unhappy at their job believe that changing it is the only solution. As if finding your dream job can guarantee a “happily-ever-after”. There are no perfect jobs out there, there will always be something wrong – the atmosphere, a very annoying coworker, a highly-authoritative boss, a long commute, no windows in the office…Job hopping will only lead to more disappointment. I agree that it’s essential to learn to appreciate what you have: which sometimes mean “squeezing” your current position for all the possible advantages and then focus on them, rather than on negative. In the end a job should not be the main source of happiness, it should come from within and then be applied to everything that you do.

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