Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? Testing fundamental assumptions about calling, effort, and enjoyment

Reference

Tosti-Kharas, J., Dobrow, S. R., & Kappes, H. 2024. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? Testing fundamental assumptions about calling, effort, and enjoyment.” Journal of Management Scientific Reports. 2(1), 100-130.

Abstract

We test the fundamental assumptions that people experiencing a stronger sense of calling invest more effort in their work tasks, and find those tasks more enjoyable, than people with a weaker sense of calling. Both assumptions have been expressed theoretically, yet received limited empirical support. Among 2,839 workers in a crowdsourced marketplace, we found that people with a stronger calling toward their work completed more of a relatively unengaging work task and enjoyed the task more than those with a weaker calling. The calling-effort relationship was particularly strong when there was no financial incentive for effort (i.e., paid a fixed amount), highlighting the risk of exploitation for strong-calling employees. People with stronger callings nonetheless responded to financial incentives—they completed more work when offered additional pay to do so. The relationship between calling and enjoyment of the task was particularly strong when there was a financial incentive for effort (i.e., paid piece-rate), indicating that extrinsic rewards did not “crowd out” intrinsic rewards. Our findings are thus consistent with research about the presence of multiple motives for behavior. Our empirical support for these assumptions using more appropriate, rigorous methods paves the way to further develop novel calling theory.
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