Passion: Because We Are All Motivated By Something

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Passion: Because We Are All Motivated By Something

Up next in our Wit and Wisdom for Well-Being series: passion!

People are more driven by a sense of purpose than we often assume. Think about those that work for non-profit organizations, those who donate time and resources to help others in need, even parents that sacrifice their own needs to ensure their children want for nothing. This sense of purpose is often what motivates people each day, what drives them to do their best work and keeps them engaged even when they could earn higher compensation elsewhere.

We explored some of the structures around fundamental human needs in our last Wit and Wisdom for Well-Being post. Common amongst many of these structures is a sense of purpose, which is essentially the desire to do something meaningful and make a positive impact. But what does this sense of purpose mean for you?


I was recently at a dinner with some friends where one of the members queried the group, asking if money was no issue, what would you do each day? Reponses of course included some of the typical leisure scenarios—similar to those ‘what if’ discussions when the Powerball jackpot reaches record highs. That said, as I listened to the group’s responses, I was pleasantly surprised to hear how many would continue doing some version of the work they do today. By taking money out of the equation, it was evident that there was meaning to them in the work they were already doing. These individuals were genuinely passionate about and felt a sense of purpose in their work.

Ruminating on this and exploring ways of attracting, retaining, and engaging key talent, it was clear that understanding an individual’s sense of purpose or motivation, what is meaningful, and what they are truly passionate about, is an essential part of the talent relationship. Granted, while some may be focused primarily on the paycheck, we know there is certainly more to it than that.

Shortly after our monthly dinner, I was exploring some industry news around talent attraction and retention. There was a discussion that caught my attention around the importance of salary transparency. As a ‘recovering recruiter’, I can speak with some level of expertise here. For many, myself included, the salary negotiation “dance” often feels less like a dance and more like a poker game. No one wants to give away what’s in their hand and it often feels like there can only be one winner. Perhaps the candidate feels like they could have gotten more and the recruiter feels like they didn’t need to throw in the signing bonus so quickly. No one really knows until everyone shows their hand, and even then there are those who put their cards back into the pile face down, so you may start the relationship with a level of skepticism—not a great way to build trust.

What is often missed in these discussions, beyond salary transparency, is a shared sense of purpose. Most founders of organizations would love to hire people that are as passionate about the company’s products or services as they are. While this may be a bit unrealistic, being open about both the organization’s motivation to interview the candidate as well as working to understand a candidate’s genuine motivation for applying for the job can help facilitate a healthier start to an employment relationship.

If both employers and candidates were more transparent regarding limitations and motivations, there exists an opportunity to find a midpoint where both parties can achieve what they need. As you hire talent, work to move beyond scripted responses and don’t be afraid to share how financial decisions (including salaries) are made to ensure the mission of the organization is achieved. Today’s talent looks not only at how a company’s morals and values align with their own, but also how those values drive decisions. For those looking to apply for a new job, work on being more transparent about your own genuine motivation and purpose and share what you expect from a future employer and the respective responsibilities of a specific role.


This concept of transparent communication is not limited to attracting talent but can also be utilized when engaging and retaining existing talent. In my current role, I am often asked how the workplace experience can improve employee engagement. Building on a sense of purpose as a driver for engagement, I often share an example of the impact that simple communication can have on stakeholders:

A few years ago, a situation arose when a facilities manager was frustrated with requests for increasingly more space and amenities within the workplace, something they were unable to provide given a limited budget. As they were reaching a breaking point, the facilities manager said to the staff (paraphrased): “I can build you a whole additional building and give you everything you want, or we can use that money to make products that save people’s lives—where would you like me to spend the money?” That was it. A simple reminder of the purpose of the organization. All arguments stopped. The stakeholders responded with, “When you put it that way, we choose to put resources towards lifesaving products.” These staff, once informed and part of the decision-making process, were reminded of their own sense of purpose, which as it turns out, was more important than their desire for larger offices.

While a fairly simple example, the lesson here is that when you are supporting an individuals’ need for a sense of purpose, transparency can go a long way. Transparent communication can be as simple as sharing a salary range on your job post (required in California, Colorado, and many other states) so people know what to expect when it comes to supporting a family, or sharing with employees some real examples of the positive impact their work has on others so they know that their work has purpose. Or, similar to the facilities manager I described earlier, simply sharing the “either/or” scenario gives people a clear understanding of limitations and lets them be part of the choice. Their motivations and selflessness may surprise you.

As we work to engage our people, even sharing the process used to make decisions shouldn’t feel like showing your hand. It’s sharing an end goal, understanding there are finite resources, and coming up with a solution together. Like many I know who are genuinely passionate about what they do, if you look for the best in people and work to understand their sense of purpose, you will likely find the same passion within your own organization. Consider even sharing some of the challenges you are facing with those smart, engaged employees you have on your team. Their passion and sense of purpose may lead to innovative ways to solve those challenges.


  1. Transparency is key. This is not Vegas; you are not at the World Series of Poker… at least not yet. While you don’t need to share the details of every decision, opening up to staff and sharing with them some of the decisions you have to make can bring in new ideas to propel the company forward.
  2. Everyone is passionate about something. It may be that people are just working to make a paycheck because they need to care for their family or send their child to school. What is going to keep them engaged and productive for your organization instead of someone else? Your respect for their priorities and their passions (whatever they may be) can go a long way.
  3. Passion is contagious, in a good way. When individuals within a community find similar passions among colleagues and a common sense of purpose, they also feel a sense of belonging (another fundamental human need), and this propels throughout the culture of the organization. Start by engaging a few individuals to understand their motivations and see where it goes.

If you’d like to learn more about how Stok and our subject matter experts can support your organization’s well-being initiatives (and not your poker game), please reach out.