I’ve known about Adams’ Equity Theory for a long time (look it up here if you’re unsure). And I always thought I’d understood entirely why it’s rolled out when there’s any discussion about motivation. But recently I really came to understand it through a situation of perceived unfairness that brought theory to life.
I’ll be discreet. I was told, explicitly, to follow a set of rules – not guidelines or nice to haves you understand, but dos, don’ts and instructions. The consequences of non-compliance were made very clear to me. I was happy with that.
But the subsequent discovery that someone else, expected to work within the same framework as me, had been allowed to operate outside those rules, played to one of the values I hold most dearly: fairness.
The truth is, I might even have been disadvantaged by sticking exactly to what I was told to do – though I do need to check this out to be 100% sure. Regardless, I suddenly felt like I’d not been competing on an even or equal playing field in comparison to the person who had been allowed to colour outside the lines and not be penalised for it.
And so for a while, de-motivation kicked in. Emotions of hurt, sadness, anger and frustration combined to lead me to a why bother in future? status. And being the experiential learner I am, I had to work this out, work through it, understand completely what it meant to me and my desire to move forward.
I’m lucky – I’ve come through it from the other side – I’ve held on, moved on, let go. (OK, maybe a teeny harbouring of resentment will always be there.) But the truth is that I have a choice. I can choose how I respond, how I deal with the information presented to me, how I act.
And something I do really understand … having choice is one of the best motivators ever.