6 Essential Lessons About Motivation From a Job Offer…and the person turned it down

Jason is a principal officer in one of a consulting firm’s city offices.  The Regional VP recently met with Jason to offer him a position as a District manager. For two hours or so the Regional guy talked about the district, its strengths, and its few weaknesses and offered the job.

It was an offer that carried with it some prestige and, for a short time, Jason considered accepting the it. But in the end, he turned it down.


When I discussed it with him I learned there are three reasons why he declined.

First, there was the challenge of finding a successor. The office Jason managed ran like a well-oiled machine and all the numbers were up over the previous year. Jason was concerned that there would be too much disruption to simply move on unless a suitable successor could be found. There was some flexibility as to when he would need to move up and had that been the only issue or even the major issue, he would probably have accepted the offer. But there were two more challenges.

Second, accepting a position of higher and broader responsibility implied a commitment of sufficient time to make the transition work, time Jason did not have. While the Regional VP did not define a specific length of time he expected, Jason would not accept the offer unless he could devote a minimum of two years in the new position. His personal leadership philosophy, set of values, and sense of responsibility told him never to take on a job unless he could devote himself fully to it and offer it a more than a tentative commitment. He liked challenges but shunned advancement for the sake of advancement alone. The problem was that Jason has become the local office manager with a clear understanding to the company that he would stay in it for two years and no more. He was committed to other pursuits outside of that office and away from that company. Two years was the limit. He was one year into that two year period which left only one more year. Taking the district manager job would mean extending it another year, something he was not willing to do.

Third, during the two hours or so that he met with the Regional VP, Jason got the distinct impression that the VP was far more interested in the company and the job than he was interested in Jason. Not once did the VP draw any parallels between what the company needed and the skill sets of Jason. Not once did the VP even try to find out if the needs of the company came close to matching the needs, ambitions, and values of Jason. When it was over, Jason felt he was little more than an object than an important and vital part of the company’s vision.

So, he declined.

There are 7 very essential lessons about motivation in this that we need to look at.

  1. The people with whom we work are not objects and should never ever be treated like objects. Only manipulators, who move pieces around to satisfy their own designs treat people like objects.
  2. Motivators know that outside pressure will change someone’s direction, interests, schedule, or efforts only as long as that pressure remains. Manipulators know that, too, but they are committed at keeping the pressure on. It is a demeaning relationship for both parties.
  3. Enticements like more responsibility, higher prestige, even more money will usually be trumped by a person’s personal values and commitments. That’s what neutralized the offer for Jason. He was unwilling to ignore his own “two and through” commitment and he was unwilling to leave his colleagues at the local office in the lurch simply to move into a perceptibly better place for himself. He had a sense of collaboration and fair play that effectively blocked the singular move up and away. It just seemed too selfish for him.
  4. We must remember to always engage with our associates and subordinates as whole people. We may think we own them for several hours a day, but we don’t. We’re only renting their attention and efforts. They have objectives and ambitions that transcend those of the enterprise or the organization. The stronger a person’s personal sense of values and defined philosophy of living, the less likely they are to succumb to the enticements that mere mortals like ourselves can dangle before them.
  5. Draw others out before you try to pour it on. The Regional VP would have been received far better had he tried to discover a parallel between his needs and the ambitions, desires, values, and intentions of his prospect. His entire approach was, in this sense, doomed from the first word. Had the VP found out where Jason was in his career and where he was going things might have turned out better. As it was, Jason perceived he would be solving the VP’s problem and helping out the company at great cost to himself.
  6. Don’t make things worse. The Regional VP did. After Jason declined the offer what do you think the VP did when he received Jason’s answer? The Regional guy did nothing. He sent no letter thanking Jason for his service and for being willing to listen to his proposal. He made no phone call. He did nothing! He made no communication of any kind, not even to acknowledge that he had received Jason’s refusal. This only reinforced in Jason’s thinking that the Jason’s perceptions and conclusions were right, that the VP didn’t care much about him. He cared more about himself and his company. The old adage that we work for ourselves regardless of who signs the paycheck really is true. The VP had not figured that out.

The last I heard, the VP was not having an easy go of it finding a District Manager. It seems just about everyone has figured him out. Motivation is always internal. People are motivated already, the question for us as leaders is to find out where and for what and discover ways we can help them reach their goals while we satisfy our own.

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