Motivation and the System Administrator

Today is the 12th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day and I hope you’ve all taken a few minutes to give your IT girl or guy a hug, a thank you , a free lunch or a case of their favourite wine/beer. If you haven’t yet, stop reading, go take care of it and come back. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Ok now that you’re back, let’s continue…

In thinking about Sys Admin Day, I got to thinking about what motivates system administrators to work in cold server rooms, solve endless user computer problems and be on call evenings and weekends (not to mention being the tech support for friends and family on days off). It can sometimes seem like a thankless job. If all goes well, no one should notice your work. If something goes wrong, everyone notices your work. Doesn’t sound all that great, does it!

Career analyst Dan Pink did a TedTalk in 2009 on the Surprising Science of Motivation which I think is very illuminating and quite applicable. Most of the sys admin’s work requires creative problem solving skills and very little is rote, routine work. The money is nice but does that really inspire the best work? Not according to Dan. Motivating creative, out-of-the-box thinking require more intrinsic motivation:

    1. Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives.
    2. Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters.
    3. Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

When I think about what motivated me in my sys admin and even now, these definitely compute. So as you manage your team of technical problem solvers, keep this list in mind.

Listen to Dan’s entire talk (18 minutes) here:

Dan Pink on The Surprising Science of Motivation

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Comments (1)

  1. Motivation says:

    I am looking forward to see more work from you, keep up the good work…

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