Most of us have heard the saying that some folks "work to live" and others "live to work." This popular maxim feels intuitively right, and as I explained in a recent post, it's also backed up by research.
Research out of Yale argues not only that people can be divided into those who see work as a job versus as a career, but also that some see work as calling that is central to their identity. When employers are looking for one type but hire another, big problems arise.
This is the classic framework for thinking about what psychologists term work orientation, but is it complete and up to date? An extensive new report from Bain that digs into workers' changing expectations for their jobs suggests not. The authors spent a year surveying 20,000 workers in 10 countries (the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Nigeria) as well as conducting in-depth interviews with more than 100 employees.
They concluded that there aren't three work orientations (Bain calls them worker "archetypes"); there are six, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. "These archetypes help us better understand what it takes for different individuals to find a sense of purpose at work," the report states. If you know who you're dealing with, you're better placed not only to hire the right person for the right role, but also to help your existing team stick around.
So what are these archetypes? Here's how the Bain report describes them, along with a quick rundown of the typical strengths and weaknesses of each type.
Of the traditional work-to-live type, the reports says "operators find meaning and self-worth primarily outside of their jobs. When it comes down to it, they see work as a means to an end. They're not particularly motivated by status or autonomy, and generally don't seek to stand out in their workplace. They tend to prefer stability and predictability. Thus, they have less interest in investing to change their future compared with other archetypes. At the same time, operators are one of the more team-minded archetypes, and often see many of their colleagues as friends."
Strengths: team players. Weaknesses: not proactive, easily disengaged.
"Givers find meaning in work that directly improves the lives of others. They are the archetype least motivated by money. They often gravitate toward caring professions such as medicine or teaching, but can also thrive in other lines of work where they can directly interact with and help others. Their empathetic nature typically translates into a strong team spirit and deep personal relationships at work. At the same time, their more cautious nature means they tend to be forward planners, who are relatively hesitant to jump on new opportunities as they arise," according to the report's authors.
Strengths: selfless, help build trust within an organization. Weaknesses: sometimes impractical or naive.
"Artisans seek out work that fascinates or inspires them. They are motivated by the pursuit of mastery. They enjoy being valued for their expertise, although they are less concerned with status in the broader sense. Artisans typically desire a high degree of autonomy to practice their craft and place the least importance on camaraderie of all the archetypes. While many find a higher purpose in work, this is more about passion than altruism," the report claims.
Strengths: well positioned to solve the most complex challenges. Weaknesses: can be aloof and lose sight of bigger objectives.
A free-spirited type, the report says "explorers value freedom and experiences. They tend to live in the present and seek out careers that provide a high degree of variety and excitement. Explorers place a higher-than-average importance on autonomy. They are also more willing than others to trade security for flexibility. They typically don't rely on their job for a sense of identity, often exploring multiple occupations during their lifetime. Explorers tend to adopt a pragmatic approach to professional development, obtaining only the level of expertise needed."
Strengths: will enthusiastically throw themselves at whatever task is required of them. Weaknesses: can be directionless or lack conviction.
"Strivers have a strong desire to make something of themselves. They are motivated by professional success, and value status and compensation. They are forward planners who can be relatively risk averse, as they opt for well-trodden paths to success. Strivers are willing to tolerate less variety so long as it is in service of their longer-term goals. They tend to define success in relative terms, and thus can be more competitive and transactional in their relationships than most other archetypes," says the report.
Strengths: disciplined and transparent. Weaknesses: their competitiveness can degrade trust and camaraderie within teams.
This entrepreneurial type sounds like it's more likely to be founding companies than plugging away in the trenches: "Pioneers are on a mission to change the world. They form strong views on the way things should be and seek out the control necessary to achieve that vision. They are the most risk-tolerant and future-oriented of all the archetypes. Pioneers identify profoundly with their work. Their vision matters more than anything, and they are willing to make great personal sacrifices accordingly. Their work relationships tend to be more transactional in nature. Their vision is often at least partly altruistic, but it is distinctly their own."
Strengths: infectious energy that can bring about lasting change. Weaknesses: can be uncompromising and imperious.
Reading through these I instantly self-identified as an explorer, right down to acknowledging my occasional struggles with long-term planning. Do you know both what type you are and why types make up your team?