Publication of the article “Everyone wants meaning in their work — but how do you define it?”

26 November 2019
Publication of the article “Everyone wants meaning in their work — but how do you define it?”

TThis article, published in The Conversation, addresses the concept of meaning in work and its growing significance in the professional world. Nowadays, many companies strive to provide their employees with a sense of purpose within their work environment. Initiatives such as relaxation spaces, well-being activities or even Chief Happiness Officers (CHOs) are put in place to promote employee fulfillment. In my research, I have highlighted how the loss of meaning in work can lead some employees, especially executives, to radically change their careers and organizations.

Meaning in work, a complex concept to grasp

The quest for meaning is a concern shared by many workers. However, the understanding of the concept of meaning at work varies. Some consider meaning to be related to their daily tasks, while others connect it to their teamwork, organizational values, job roles, industry sector, or even the product sold. Despite this diversity, the majority of employees are still awaiting clear direction provided by their immediate managers or the Human Resources department.

Meaning at work is a cross-cutting notion that goes beyond organizational issues and Quality of Work Life (QWL). It encompasses the significance of work, the subject’s orientation in their work and the coherence between the individual and their professional activity. This quest for meaning is guided by a concern for consistency between the employee’s needs and what the organization offers.

How can meaning be generated at work?

The article emphasizes that the search for meaning can only be personal in our modern society where there is no longer a collective system of meaning structuring common life. Individuals must, therefore, construct their own meaning based on their values and beliefs.

To generate meaning in organizations, it is crucial to provide collective references to employees so that they can build their individual meaning. This can be achieved through a clear exposition of the company’s purposes and values, as well as through the implementation of policies that promote skills development and career progression. However, it is essential to not fall into “purpose washing” by communicating supposed values that do not reflect the organization’s concrete actions.

In conclusion, this article highlights the emergence of the quest for meaning at work and its importance for employee well-being and fulfillment. It underscores the need for companies to provide collective guidelines while allowing individuals the freedom to construct their own meaning in harmony with their values and professional aspirations.

Reference of the article:

Everyone wants meaning in their work — but how do you define it? The Conversation, November 26, 2019.

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