Here’s an odd press release:

De-motivated UK workers feel the heat of ‘summer sad’

Over half (58 per cent) of UK workers suffer from ‘Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder’ which leaves many de-motivated, unhappy and even close to quitting their jobs, according to a poll released today by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).

According to this survey (not, in my admittedly limited experience, a common diagnostic tool for ailments), the advent of summer makes many of us feel unhappy in our work. Why is this government agency spinning this story? The clue comes later on:

The survey also delved into how UK workers use their summer months at work, comparing and contrasting the experiences of different professions.

With 13 weeks holiday a year, teachers are more likely to use the summer period for extended breaks with 1 in 4 (25 per cent) using their time to take long holidays abroad – double the amount of most other professions.

So the cure for people who get the summertime blues is to change to a career with extended holiday periods. (And, they are at pains to remind us, “a competitive salary.”)

Within my immediate family, I am surrounded by teachers. My mother, step-mother, mother-in-law and father-in-law were all teachers. Three of my sisters-in-law are qualified teachers. I don’t think any of them were driven to become teachers because there was a chance of long holidays. They did it because they believed that they had a vocation to teach. In my experience, those (in any walk of life) who take on an important task for the wrong reasons are most likely to perform poorly at it.

What are the wrong reasons? I think there are many, but they boil down to paying more attention to one’s own interests than to the job. If you do a job because it is well paid, rather than because it intrinsically interests you or you think you can do it especially well, there is nothing keeping you in that job: as soon as you can see another one that will pay you more, your motivation must drive you to take that one instead. As a result, I think people who take this approach will inevitably be less committed to their job than those who consider it more important that the job is done well.

This issue is also relevant to knowledge management activities. Two of the objectives of KM are to make sure that the job (a) is done well and (b) can be done well again in the future by someone else. The behaviours supporting these objectives require people to put aside self-interest to some extent. If we adopt incentive schemes to encourage people to participate in KM, we reintroduce self-interest, which I think will then start to undermine the process. I don’t expect everyone’s motivations to be pure, but I don’t think it is sensible to introduce impurities at the outset.

(As an aside, I think the TDA’s use of SAD to promote teaching is particularly unworthy. For those who suffer from it, SAD is not a joking matter.)