Psych you out (at work)

Why Do You Work?

We work so that we can earn money that pays for the roof over our families’ heads, the food on our plates and security.  We work so that we have the money to vacation. We spend most of our lives in a career working so that we can have the money necessary for retirement … we WORK so that we DON’T HAVE TO WORK.

The inherent meaning of work then becomes to make money.

Once we’ve earned the money necessary to ensure the physical needs of our lives are met, most adults readily work to address the psychological needs working fulfills.  Most of us want to live a meaningful life, to contribute in a positive way to society, to be productive.  There are untold decisions we make and actions we take for reasons other than financial – many choose to become parents and raise children, spend their time coaching a soccer team, participating in Baker to Vegas, and many other activities with no financial reward.

In a study by the American Psychological Association, some 1,250 full- and part-time employed adults were asked why they work.  Here’s what they found.


The results indicate that the joy people garner from their jobs and the match between their job and their lifestyle serve as greater work motivators than salary alone.  In fact, these are aspects of work that affect an individual’s quality of life.  Although salary clearly serves as an incentive to work, it has only a small differential impact when compared to the social benefits of work and the need to contribute to something bigger than oneself.  Clearly, people want to be compensated for their work, but other factors are just as or more important to people than simply being paid.

Taking money out of the equation

Most of us spend more waking hours at work than we do than at any one other area of our lives—shouldn’t work be meaningful?!  In addition to meeting our need to provide for ourselves and our families with the basic essentials of life, work meets other needs.  When we feel that we have to drudge through work so that we can enjoy other aspects of our lives, then life starts to feel more like a rat race.  In fact, numerous studies have shown that individuals who continually strive to earn more and more salary, get stuck in a hedonistic treadmill, where you never feel like you’re earning enough money.


If one works for money, they will never have enough and will never work enough—they are running on the hedonistic treadmill where consumption becomes the carrot. Also, our salaries are often the one aspect of our work where we may not be able to exercise much control or influence. Work can fulfill many other needs, such as social connections. The pleasure derived from these other benefits is longer lasting than the ephemeral joy that comes from being paid.

Human relationships

Think about one of the best experiences you have had at work.  In all likelihood, in one way or another it has a human element.  Are many of your friends people you have met on the job?  If so, you are not alone.  People seek companionship with persons who have interests similar to their own.  Work meets our need for belonging and social interaction.

Personal development

Work offers opportunities for intellectual and personal growth.  It is a means of attaining new skills, learn new things and to attain goals.


Police work makes a contribution to society.  It is important work that is valued by others.  Police work is replete with opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. Your work is of service to others and can allow for the sense of contributing to something bigger than ourselves.


Try this – Take three minutes and ask yourself, Why Do You Work?

What are you trying to accomplish through work?     Who are you working for?

In answering these questions, you may be surprised that many of the reasons don’t involve buying more things.

– by Dr Azadeh Famili