Should we stop using the letter of motivation?

According to author Harrington J. chapter in “Total Innovative Excellence” for an employee whose salary is US $60,000it will cost the company anywhere from US $30,000 to US $45,000 to hire and train a replacement. So why not starting it of with the right motivation? And why, with the right motivation, when it is the motivation that is right to begin with? I argue differently and believe that the motivation is often rather imaginary and targeted towards what is wanted as desired motivation. This makes applying and the review of applications more time-consuming for both employees and applicants. To reduce that I suggest to deviate from the letter of motivation and reduce it to a 6-7 sentences e-mail with what “realy does motivate or not”. Following you can find my arguments, with backgrounds drawing from psychoanalytical theory, which is much about what happens “unconciously”;

Unless your bills are paid by themselves, the primary motivation to apply for a paid job is very likely to get paid. Even if it is our dream job, we’d still want it to pay. Now we could mention it in letter(s) of motivation, but somehow it appear(s) unpolite to have a salary as prime motivator. Why? After all we want motivated employees and it seems that salary should not be the key factor for motivation, because the motivation should come from “within”. Ironically, it is also not neither nor. Because the salary is important, does not mean the rest or the motivation is not. Maybe there is no other motivation then the salary, and that may be okay too, if it is what sustains or has one grow in the company. After all, we don’t know.

Now what’s a letter of motivation? It describes the applicants motivation. However, motivation(s) tend to be different and successfull letter(s) of motivation tend to not cater towards that, but towards the motivation that one could imagine as an ideal motivation to land the job. If we were real about this, we would understand that we don’t know what type of motivation a company is expecting, other then what our motivation is so that we find a good match that is as real as it can be.

Even though we slightly know about it, we tend to ignore it and enter the I call it “double-folded application trap”. We know what motivates us most likely and what does not. And something similiar might apply to the employer. Both know, there is no such thing as the super ideal candidate. As applicants we pretend for it to be not like that, because we want to get the job and as employers and recuriters we hope the ideal candidate with the ideal motivation is out there too. Now it starts; the ideal letter of motivation begins being targeted as well as waited for to be recieved.

Hours may be spend perfectionising it, because of how little it should lead to rejection. If the letter of motivation was most real, it would probably reject some ideals and illustrate a different motivation to none. It may even lead to self-rejection, because less criteria and a different motivation would be present. While self-rejection could be suitable, it also is less favorable for economic and competative reasons. It means at this point a letter of motivation is submitted, which can run risk to be rather imaginary. What is left is the question of what is real for those who wrote and for those who read it (even worse with story-telling). Are you really okay with working over hours or is this something you want to do out of a heart-break, which means you won’t sustain in that position?

This makes applying as well as recuriting tyring, because one has to first fish through what is real and what is less likely and that for multiple job applications and their reviews. Now, should we end the letter of motivation? I would say yes and reduce it to an e-mail introduction of required 5-7 sentences instead. After all the job appliction has already been read so that when someone is applying it can be assumed that there is “a motivation” and the five liner might illustrate which one it is or not. Maybe someone even has a different motivation that can be suitable too. And what even is ideal, when in the lack of it, new ideals or candidates with different skills and motivations might be found too? Maybe someones real motivation even suprises “I am going to be a mom in a month and want to secure a job before giving birth. I am a quick learner and would like to grow with you. It is only possible if my child can be a part of this. See my CV attached.”

Hope you enjoyed this. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Image Source: What it means to be “real” according to psychology by Steven Handel.

THe unconciousness, why and how we end up collaboration, when we don’t want to.

Often collaboration has many benefits and if you don’t want to or someone else does not want to, there are several guidelines on how to do it or how to improve collaboration (1). The premise is to make collaboration desirable and also managable. As a result the option of whether collaboration is not wanted or should not happen is often not mentioned. Instead the benefits are mentioned, which on the other hand could be a form of gaslighting if it is not actually wanted. That is the manipulation of ones own reality towards a different one (2). For example, being convinced that a particular collaboration is suitable for a particular reason, whilst it might not be.

What is bad about convincing yourself in wanting to collaborate?

Often times it might not work out in the long term. An easy to understand example is going on a first date. The chemistry does not fit, but for the sakes of dating and the idea(l) of having a relationship (such as in most goals actively looked for in collaborations), one might start to think of benefits for this relationship to work, a bit like cherry-picking. As a result, one may twist themselves to appear more suitable and starts to accept and appreciate differences. This might go well for a bit, but after some time it won’t, because it is not true. The ending of the honey moon phase and the reality then presented is a good example. “Oh you don’t actually like this?” “yeah..sorry, I did that for you kind of.”

Why would anyone want to collaborate, while not actually wanting it?

There are different reasons, some may be concious and some may be unconcious. Let’s explore different thought processes and how they play out in practice.

  1. Modification of an object

Someone might not like the idea of collaboration firstly, which shows as a tiny thought, but then actively point out (sudden) collaborative benefits. However, unconciously a different thought process might happen, in which collaboration is continuesly not wanted. In psyche one of such mechanisms is referred to modification of an object (3). It is a mechanism that turns something not of liking into something of liking. The purpose of this mechansim in infants for example is protection of the self such as from harm or neglect. For example, if a caretaker is neglecting a baby, it would naturally dislike them and leave. Because it cannot do so it turns such disliking into liking.

In adults or in workplace cooperation this might look like needing to cooperate because it is essential for company survival or for example also an individual position. As a result – of modification of object – and present in concious argumentation one might find benefits in collaboration and believe so “oh this company is greatly positioned, this sounds like a cool vision, this person seems fantastic to work with. I like it, lets do it.” On the other hand one might unconciously think “I would not spend a dime on this.”

2. Sugar-coated belief system

At the same time you might have read and learned about all sorts of unconcious biases such as on racism and feel ready to avoid them. For example, you may believe that you actively share no racist trades, but when it comes to collaboration with a partner of a different skin color or accent, you may find yourself naming different reasons why the collaboration does not work. For example research (4) conducted on neuropolitics by Liya Yu, found that although “white people” claimed to be actively not racist, their brain regions showed signs of fear when seeing “black people.”As a result you may choose to collaborate with someone different, less suitable or you may choose to still collaborate, whilst you unconciously don’t want to and that shows for example by being or becoming avoident. Here it might be interesting to explore a few “Whys’?” Why being avoidant? What’s that feeling of discomfort telling me? And whatever it is, it’s okay. It is okay in that sense, that it can be be explored further.

Why is there a discrepancy between conciousness and unconciousness?

There are different reasons. Our brain develops bottom up and lays an unconcious foundation for our own survival; How to relate to another, what feels safe and unsafe. Depending on the latter, these traits become part of our unconciousness. For example there is no need to be concious about how to move your finger tips, when eating. And similiar patterns likely apply to our psyche and thereby our notions of survival. For example, if you grew up in a solely x-skin colored family environment, then this is what likely feels safe to you “your tribe with its habits and belief system”(5). However, suddenly you may find yourself with different people of different backgrounds (habits, skin color, religions, accents etc) and it does less. And I believe the larger the discrepancy from what you are used to; feel save with, the more likely your “concisouness” will shut down, and your primal instincts including what is unconcious but feels safe will be present or to some extend guide you, while not being aware of.

What does this say about effective collaboration?

Collaboration is great and it does hold many benefits if collaboration is true. For example, again if you go on a first date and the chemistry fits; values, or certain values shared align with each other, you truthfully complement each other, you don’t twist yourself to make yourself fit to the other, you can be honest, you lay out your cards. Whatever it is, I mean complementation can work so different, it fits and that’s okay. That’s great actually. For example, it’s okay wanting to collaborate with someone from your hometown, or the same cultrual background if that makes you feel safe and the collaboration too.

What if I don’t want to collaborate, but you know, I have to?

I believe you should not twist yourself for anyone or let anyone twist you. Secondly, in business model research, different business models are suitable for different market segments. I believe a similiar approach can be used for collaboration. If partner x is not suitable for project b, a different one can be found. At the same time, becoming aware about certain bias might help you to actively avoid collaboration, but at the same time it also gives you the chance to work on understanding them with the intent to encourage collaboration; Why do I hold certain bias? Where do they come form? What do I fear? as oppose to: I am aware of my bias or ignore it, let’s get it on with.

More to it? Let me know in the comments.


(1) Nevins, M. (2018). How to Collaborate with People You Don’t Like. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

(2) Thomas, L. (2018). “Gaslight and gaslighting”The Lancet. Psychiatry5 (2): 117–118. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30024-5PMID 29413137.

(3) Training Material from the International Society of Applied Psychoanalysis (Modification of Object)

(4) Yu, L. (2022). Vulnerable Minds: The Neuropolitics of Divided Societies. Columbia University Press.

(5) Van Vugt, M., & Schaller, M. (2008). Evolutionary approaches to group dynamics: An introductionGroup Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice12(1), 1.

Where has all that meaning gone and how to get it back?

When we are children, we are yet too young to know what we want to do later in life. What passion will drive us. We make sense of this world, relate to our parents, maybe adopt one or another of their joys; their taste of music, their taste of styles, their taste of being. Our peers styles, what they like and don’t.

And there is us; what we like, the styles we enjoy, the interests we form independent of others. Interests and styles we merge and sometimes one interest swaps over into another, creating confusion or for others „disorder“. To be part of the girls group, you need to wear pink and listen to hip hop.

As a child just forming a sense of this world, being excluded sucks. Eventually the child gives in. Changes it’s writing style, changes clothing, wanting to be part of the girls gang. Yet, it never really becomes part of it fully, because its full part is the individuality it gave up to be part.

As adults we long for that. For that individuality, we lost as a child, we gave up because it made us excluded or because we had to because it wasn’t liked or too odd to be understood (at home, in schools and any other setting). There were informal laws full of bias holding us back ; not being allowed to mix Goethe with Techno, not spending too much time on homework one enjoys not because of the enjoyment, but because of the perception of homework for instance that it shouldn’t take too much time, loving long hair as a boy but cutting it short and now having it short because of the bullies experienced as child but now feeling one can’t fully be themselves because of the image created to oneself and others [feeling locked-in], loving to game and to connect to others thereby, but being shamed for being an indoor vampire and than as adult realizing how much one missed and learned from gaming with people around the globe. Now we are adults with the images we had created to be accepted. Where is the meaning now we had lost?

In these moments, others might made us feel that these were slight annoyances, but they were the annoyances that might have ended something that gave meaning to our lives and it’s continuity; a skill-set, a passion a genuine interest, a feeling worth living for that could have carried on into our adult life as is now. Yet where has that gone? Where has that feeling of belonging gone? Where has that meaning gone to? What filled you with joy, not because it filled others with joy, but because it filled you with joy ?

What was it that you loved so much and gave up? What exactly about it ? And for what reason did you not persue it? Can you get it back now? How would that effect you? Would it scare you? Why would it? Can you try it out? What do you need to do so?

Why would this matter for sustainability?

People thrive, where and when they can be. At work, privately and both.