Intrinsic value in graduate recruitment?

Posted on August 25, 2009

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Success where measured against intrinsic goals … was seen to be psychologically nourishing.

A June study in the Journal of Research in Personality sheds new and interesting findings on the concept of happiness at work within a graduate context.

Running a series of psychological surveys with 147 alumni from two universities, once twelve months after graduation and again at 2 years, the study shows how successful participants were at achieving state goals and, crucially, how that progress made them feel.August 2009 057

The most revealing findings show that success against extrinsic goals, such as wealth, actually cause ill-being and an increase in negative emotion.  Success where measured against intrinsic goals, by contrast, was seen to be psychologically nourishing.

There are caveats. 

Not least in that some of the activities commented on as being “psychologically nourishing” – such as spending more time with family were not tested for, nor were goals set.  So there is an argument to suggest that any kind of measurable goal setting will induce stress of some kind (and it’s also important to differentiate between stress as a contributor and necessary agent for performance versus anxiety, which merely wears you down.)

However, in showing that the pursuit of personal passions has a positive pychological impact, the study does open the way for organisations to refocus on intrinsic reward by better matching staff and roles in the first place.

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