Motivating factors Featured

10:00am EDT July 22, 2002

While there may be as many different approaches to work as there are working Americans, a recent poll suggests most of the country’s work force can be grouped into six categories: fulfillment seekers, high achievers, clock punchers, risk takers, ladder climbers and paycheck cashers.

These are among the major findings of the first Shell Poll, a new quarterly opinion survey of Americans conducted for Shell Oil Co. by Peter D. Hart Research Associates.

Each group represents about one-sixth of the work force. Workers were grouped as follows:

  • Fulfillment seekers: A large majority (87 percent) believe a good job is one that “allows me to use my talents and make a difference” rather than one that provides a good income and benefits. Fully 88 percent say they have a career as opposed to a job, while eight in 10 prefer both working in a small business and a stable income, even if there is little chance of great financial success. They are mostly white (83 percent) and married (59 percent), though they are almost equally male (49 percent) and female (51 percent). Most (68 percent) are satisfied with their jobs, and a substantial majority (72 percent) say they are team players rather than leaders.

  • High achievers: This is the highest income group, with nearly a quarter earning more than $75,000, and the group with the highest educational achievement (53 percent have a four-year degree or more). A large majority (90 percent) of high achievers say they have followed a career plan since a young age. Most (81 percent) are leaders who take initiative, and most (86 percent) believe they have a career rather than a job. A majority hold managerial positions (54 percent) and are male (58 percent). Further, a substantial number (47 percent) expect to work for four or fewer employers during their career, and 80 percent say they prefer the stability of one employer.

  • Clock punchers: These are the least career-oriented of any group surveyed, with 95 percent saying they have a job rather than a career. Further, 96 percent say they ended up in their jobs largely by chance, and nearly three-quarters say they would make different career choices if they could do it all over again. This group is by far the least satisfied of any, with just 35 percent saying they are completely or mainly satisfied. Clock punchers are predominately female (59 percent), have the lowest household income (35 percent below $30,000) and are the least educated—only 18 percent have four-year college degrees, while half have a high school diploma or less.

  • Risk takers: Members of this group are far more willing than others to take risks for the opportunity for great financial success (84 percent). They are also the only group that likes to move from employer to employer in search of the best job (76 percent) and most (54 percent) believe the trend toward people holding many different jobs is a good thing rather than a bad thing. This group is young (45 percent are under the age of 35) and largely male (60 percent). They are fairly well educated, with 43 percent holding college degrees, and have good incomes (41 percent have household incomes of more than $50,000).

  • Ladder climbers: These workers are “company people,” with 93 percent saying they prefer the stability of staying with one employer for a long time. A substantial majority (78 percent) prefer a stable income over the chance of great financial success; consider themselves to be leaders (86 percent) rather than team players; and say they are inclined to stand up to the boss rather than avoid conflict (94 percent). Four in nine say they would change cities to stay with their current employer, and half are baby boomers (age 35 to 49). A majority (53 percent) are women and most have significant incomes (48 percent more than $50,000), even though they have modest educational backgrounds (just 27 percent are college graduates)—the reverse of fulfillment seekers.

  • Paycheck cashers. Most members of this group (62 percent) prefer jobs that provide good income and benefits over ones that allow them to use their talents and make a difference. Although 62 percent say they will take risks for a chance at achieving great financial success, 94 percent want the security of staying with one employer for a long time, and 73 percent are team players rather than leaders—the opposite of risk takers. This group is young (46 percent are under 35) and male (61 percent). Most (70 percent) do not have a college degree, work in blue collar (39 percent) or nonprofessional white collar jobs (34 percent) and prefer working in a large company or agency (64 percent).