Motivation and the Meaning of Work

International Journal of Applied HRM (ISSN: 1742-2604) Volume 1 Issue 1

Dr Susanne Tietze, North Notts College, Worksop


Andrew Jack Whittaker, an American company owner from Virginia, won the biggest ever jackpot of $314.9m (£197m) of the US lottery. By his own account, Mr Whittaker, an already wealthy man, does not plan any major lifestyle changes, but intends to continue to rise at 5am every day, to drive over to the petrol station-cum-convenience store in Hurricane for his morning biscuit. The largest portion, after tax, of his winnings will be ploughed back into the family business, a construction company. His decision to continue to work was made in particular in the light of recently having had to make 25 employees redundant, which he now hopes to reemploy.

Mr Whittaker has been a contented and happy man before his winnings: “Every morning when I wake up I feel like I’ve won the lottery.”

The reason why I am intrigued by this story is that it presents an opportunity to reflect about why people work and what makes them commit to their work. Obviously, in Mr. Whittaker’s case, money can no longer be the ‘big motivator’, which drives and determines his actions. Money and material gain might have been somewhat stronger motivators before the big windfall, but even then they did not seem to have been the prime reason at the core of Mr Whittaker’s outlook and behaviour. Rather, at the very centre of his being is a deep belief about the importance of his work and the responsibility, which comes with it. To Mr Whittaker the pursuit of work has always been and will continue to be a deeply meaningful activity.

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