A new generation is entering the workplace and with it comes a modern way of conducting business. The topic of finding meaning AT and IN work is one that the new generation feels strongly about. And if we are honest, many of us are all in favour of experiencing meaningful work. But what is meaning at work? How do we find it? There seem to be endless self-help tips and suggestions on the topic. I would like to bring in some positive psychology science into the topic, thereby making it more evidence based.
In old business models and language, the word meaning of work was associated with a vocation. This gave it a religious connotation and an “elite” phenomenon that wasn’t to be experience by the majority average workforce. Since the early 2000s the word vocation was replaced with “calling” which leans more towards a transcendent purpose that is socially valued. Out of these two words, the phrase meaning has emerged which incorporates both, as it refers to a sense that your work is valuable and meaningful to yourself and also serves a purpose to others.
The three components that result in meaning at work are:
- Belonging and connecting
People are social beings who need positive bonds and relationships with others. We need to feel that we fit in, are accepted and can identify with our colleagues. A person’s relationship needs are often met at and through their work. Working with colleagues provides connection and collaboration that is fulfilling and provides meaning at work.
Identifying with your work tasks and understanding how you fit into the company provides meaning IN your work. The two meanings AT and IN work do not have to exist together, but if they do this will have a huge impact on employee engagement, productivity, satisfaction and well-being.
- Work Purpose
This is an interesting one! The emphasis is on understanding how your work activities contribute to other peoples’ lives. It is about how your work makes a difference to the community. The focus is totally on others, not on yourself. Support employees in discovering how their work positively contributes to their colleagues, clients or society. Purpose directly interlinks with goal setting and attainment, as it provides a bridge on how to attain their long-term aspirations and accomplishments.
- Story telling
We all love hearing and telling stories because we can identify and connect with them. We remember them effortlessly as our brains are naturally wired for stories. We make sense of situations and our world through hearing and telling stories. The same applies to our workplace; we use stories to share successes, to celebrate and equally to learn from failures and setbacks.
Now that you know what the difference between meaning AT and IN work is assist your team member’s in finding meaning. What is important to know is that numerous research studies have linked meaning at work to employee engagement and motivation. This has a direct link with productivity, creativity and performance, an absolute win-win for individuals and organisations.