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Friday Feb 21, 2020

Physician autonomy: the missing ingredient for motivation at work

Research suggests that professionals are primarily motivated by three things at work:1

1. Purpose: the desire to contribute to something that transcends us,

2. Mastery: the desire to continually improve at something we value,

3. Autonomy: the desire to be self-directed.

For most physicians, having a sense of purpose and mastering the job are easier pursuits than self-directing their work, because organizations tend to discourage autonomy.

Instead, groups need to address the tension between the desires of professionals to practice in ways that are meaningful to them personally and the desires of leadership to protect the clinic’s mission, quality, and bottom line. One approach is to let individuals or teams dictate their own processes as long as they can deliver the desired outcomes. Additionally, groups should view autonomy as a continuum based on employees’ levels of education, experience, or authority. All employees benefit from having some autonomy, but higher level employees such as physicians should be afforded more autonomy, as should team leads and managers, who need the freedom to build systems and respond creatively to problems.

1. Pink DH. Drive. Riverhead Books; 2009.


Read the full FPM article: “Creating a Culture of Intrinsic Motivation.”

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Posted at 01:00PM Feb 21, 2020 by FPM Editors

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