The Importance of Relatedness in Motivation

Learn about the importance of relatedness in motivation and how it affects performance through social connections.

Humans are social creatures. Despite the popular image of the anti-social developer who just wants to sit in the dark with their headphones on and write code 26 hours a day, when we examine the situation more closely, we find that humans find all sorts of ways to socialize. Even the most introverted developer finds ways to connect with others—they just often choose to do so using tools that differ from the extrovert, and to do so with fewer numbers of people. (Remember, the value of friendships isn’t in the number of friends you have, but the quality and depth of those connections.)

Consider this: if we spend eight hours a day, five days a week at work, as well as receive work email on our phones and do the occasional text message or after-hours support call, 75% of our day is connected to work somehow. If work doesn’t help us meet our connection needs, then where are they going to be met? We can talk about “work-life balance” until we’re blue in the face and still not meaningfully accomplish anything.

Part of your job as the leader of your team is to help your team find their relatedness: to each other, to the company, and to the work being done. An old story from the Apollo days at NASA holds that one day John F Kennedy toured the NASA Space Center. During his tour, he came across a janitor cleaning a particular spot on the floor. When he stopped, he asked the janitor, “What is it you’re doing here?” and the janitor replied, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

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