Thanks to The Nub and Curt Rosengren for pointing me this report by Roffey Park: Research links the issue of ‘meaning’ at work to employee motivation
According to the research this quest for meaning can be triggered by changes in an individual’s life, for example reaching a landmark birthday, the loss of a parent or loved one or through an encroaching sense of one’s own mortality. It can also be prompted by changes in an organisation, if they erode the traditional values of community.
I certainly recognise this in my own life. I’ve been making a transition from being focussed on competition and achievement to looking for work that is intrinsically satisfying – which is what I think “meaningful” means to me. For me, this transition was kick-started by adversity, in the shape of a truly miserable experience of liitigation, and by losing my parents and hitting the inevitable signs of, whisper-it-not, middle-age.
The report continues:
“People need and want to belong to communities in which they can make meaningful contributions,” said Linda Holbeche. “Work, for many people, provides a source of identity. People work such long hours that work is often their social outlet as well. However in some organisations, downsizing and restructuring changes, and greater emphasis on the ‘dog-eat-dog’ work mentality, have made relationships more transactional and mistrustful. This has negated feelings of community within organisations, with detrimental effects.”
And here’s the Ordinary Cow (the obvious thing that seems to surprise some people)
“People are turned off by work that is meaningless or unethical,” said Linda Holbeche. “Without meaning at work, morale suffers, change becomes more difficult to manage and people start to look for other jobs or consider self-employment.”
The research highlights that people want to work for organisations they admire, where there is a fit between their own personal values and those of the organisation. They want challenging jobs, with clear goals, through which they can experience personal growth and in which their contribution is noticed and respected. They want an open, democratic form of leadership and they also want to balance their work with other aspects of their lives
Blindingly obvious, and yet I really think it needs stating again and again.