Every employee has different drivers

Alex Bochannek

Engineering Manager, Site Reliability Engineering at Google



"I noticed that one of my high performing engineers seemed to lack motivation. She was someone who delivered quality work on a consistent basis but she wasn't excited about new projects that should have excited her. I tried to give her some more challenging projects to work on, but I still didn't see any specific enthusiasm. I wanted to retain her, since she had some specific technical skills that were very valuable for the team, but I didn't know how to boost her motivation."

Actions taken

I decided to have a conversation with her to understand her drivers. I asked her in a very upfront way: "Why are you here? What is it that motivates you?" Her answer was very frank: "I am here for the money." She had a growing family and some projects outside of work, and was motivated by the prospects of increased compensation.

"I am here for the money."

It is rare for someone to be that direct, and it made it easier for me to find an adequate plan to keep her motivated over the years. This was at a large company, with a clear structure of grade levels. I drafted a plan with specific objectives, and with a financial incentive associated with their completion. This engineer showed more motivation and she was promoted a few months later.

Lessons learned

I learned that it is crucial for a manager to understand why the people who work for you do so. People have different drivers. Some people are more predictable, some people are more abstract. But there is no "right" answer, you have to respect people for who they are. You cannot project your own motivations on your employees.

"It is crucial for a manager to understand why the people who work for you do so."

Conventional wisdom suggests that engineers are primarily motivated by technical challenges and learning. However, some engineers are seeking stability and predictable growth. It is important to recognize that those engineers can be valuable contributors and their strategy for motivation needs to be adjusted accordingly.

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Alex Bochannek

Engineering Manager, Site Reliability Engineering at Google

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesTechnical ExpertiseTechnical Skills

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