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- Client: Permon D. Mitchell, Area Case Services Manager

  SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department



Motivation and Cognitive Development Skills


If a person does not want to find work or stay working, the potential for a successful employment outcome is very unlikely. Motivation to work is a fundamental pillar to going to work and staying working.

Motivation is internally driven. It comes from inside of each of us. All human beings are motivated all the time.

The question is: what is their motivation targeted at? If someone is not willing to work, they are still motivated about other things, just not working.


Successful employment programs recognize, support and build on the personal motivation to work. When programs cannot build this motivation to work, a lot of resources are invested in candidate preparation, fruitless job searches and attempted employment that employment wise, fail.

Consequently, the assumption that a person is motivated to work by virtue of applying to a program can be a costly error. It is one shared by many rehabilitation agencies.


Mistaken Motivation Indicators


There are a number of false and problem indicators related to the personal motivation to work: 

False Indicator - The person verbally says I want to go to work but in reality they like the concept of working but do not have the internal commitment to follow through. 

Solution – Ensure during intake that the person’s motivation is deeper than just a conceptual notion of work. It should be determined that they have considered and are motivated by certain benefits if they do work. (Read more info in our Cognitive and Motivational Tools for Initiating Behavioral Change (CMT) brochure or visit the workshops page)


False Indicator - The person sets conditions on their employment or general willingness to go to work. “I will go to work if you find me this specific kind of job or get me this specific wage”. There are conditions to going to work. Some people can have legitimate conditions for going to work - health, specific training, financial need, etc. But most often this comment reflects a false presentation of the motivation to work. Generally, the person sets even more unrealistic conditions the closer they get to actually having to go to work. 

Solution – Work with this person to identify the real value they will derive from working. If there are attendant issues in this person’s life that need to be addressed prior to working, then they must be addressed first. (Read more info in our Cognitive and Motivational Tools for Initiating Behavioral Change (CMT) brochure or visit the workshops page)


Problem Indicator - A person may say they want to work but when given a job opportunity they continually lose it due to social competency reasons - don’t fit in, respond poorly to supervision, poor work habits. They don’t learn from their mistakes. They are always blaming others for their own problems. 

Solution – This person may have a cognitive deficiency, which prevents them from learning from their mistakes and increasingly causes them to become de-motivated about working as they experience ongoing work failure. They eventually decide working is not for them and abandon any motivation to work. (See the brochure and research on reThinking unEmployment or Ready Set Go for a fuller explanation of cognitive deficiencies, motivation and unemployment.)


Problem Indicator - The applicant attends the first one or two meetings with the vocational counsellor and never returns. The applicant receives an education via the vocational rehabilitation agency, at the end of which they decide not to work.  

Solution – In either case the applicant has not really made up their mind that working is for them. This should have been identified at intake. The issue of their ambivalence to working should have been worked on through a series of intake tools. (Read more info in our Cognitive and Motivational Tools for Initiating Behavioral Change (CMT) brochure or visit the workshops page)


Problem Indicator - The candidate is employed but has run into either typical or atypical work conditions that are de-motivating them about staying on the job. The person is communicating that they would like to quit. 

Solution – The employment support person should address the employee’s desire to quit. Specifically, they should help the person determine if quitting is or is not the best decision. They also need to help the employee’s transition to self-managing these situations – essentially getting through hard moments at work on their own. (See brochure on Cognitive and Motivational Tools for Initiating Behavioral Change (CMT) workshops page.) 



A candidate’s real motivation to work and the job developer’s expertise in finding a great variety of jobs are the two pillars of successful employment outcomes. 

Remember the motivation to work is not enough for people with visible employment barriers you will always need some level of job development.


Our workshops on motivation development and job development are complimentary to each other, but can be used individually and separately.

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