Which is more motivating: Relatedness or Purpose?

Jason Yip
1 min readMay 21, 2023

Migrated from my old blog.

When talking about motivation, many people will reference Drive with its three key factors:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

One of the main sources that Dan Pink used for Drive is self-determination theory, which also points to three key factors for intrinsic motivation:

  • Autonomy
  • Competence (which is perhaps not as trendy sounding as Mastery)
  • Relatedness

Note the difference with the last factor. Dan Pink used “Purpose” while self-determination theory has “Relatedness”.

Imagine you’re in a job. You have very broad autonomy. You are very good at the job and are constantly getting better at it. The job contributes to a grand purpose to do good in the world. However, you don’t identify with anyone at work, you end up mostly working on your own because every interaction with others reminds you how disconnected and uncaring your workplace is.

Imagine you’re in another job. Again, you have very broad autonomy, and you are very competent and getting better at the job. This time, you feel very connected with your work colleagues and generally feel a strong sense of mutual caring. However, if you really think about it, the purpose of your work is really nothing special.

Which job feels more motivating? Which job do we think will be more motivating for most people?



Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl