There's a soul-searching epidemic afoot in the workplace.
Employees are no longer content with just a paycheck and good
benefits; they want meaning and passion. Here's how fulfilling
work can add up to more productive, happier employees and perhaps
a healthier bottom line.
By Shari Caudron
The corporate chaos of the last few years has caused scores of
employees to question what they really want out of life and work.
Trainers may be able to help them find answers.
Christian Blackwell worked in international banking for seven
years. Although based in New York, he traveled to Europe and
Latin America regularly. For a while, it was an exciting and
challenging job. He joined the bank just out of business school
and by combining his youth, education, and enthusiasm, he was
able to rise quickly. His last position was vice president of
telecommunications and media corporate finance.
But last summer, he gave it all up and moved with his wife to
a quiet little town in Vermont. Why? "When I joined the
bank, I was put through an international management training
program with many bright people who had graduated from top business
schools," he says. "Sitting in the classroom, you could
see the bright lights burning behind their eyes. "But over
the years, I saw those lights go out. Eventually, I was surrounded
by people who weren't inspired by their work, but they made too
much money to give it up. I didn't want that to happen to me
so I said 'to heck with it.'"
Blackwell got out before kids and a mortgage trapped him in a
job that had become meaningless and routine. Now, between ski
trips, he is searching for work that is more satisfying internally.
Is That All There Is?
Blackwell is not alone. From San Francisco's cable cars to New
York's subways, you can practically hear the chorus: "There
has to be more than this." American workers, en masse, are
reevaluating their lives, their jobs, and their employers. They
are asking whether it's worth it to spend time at companies where
they feel no passion or commitment. Increasingly, the answer
is no. "Today, people want jobs that matter," says
John Challenger, executive vice president of Challenger, Gray,
and Christmas, an international out placement company based in
Chicago. Challenger, who has been in the business for 34 years,
says he has never heard so many people talk about finding meaning
in their work.
Why should training and human resource professionals be concerned
with this soul-searching trend? Because a funny thing happens
when people start devoting their time to meaningful work. They
become more energetic, open-minded, and creative. According to
Barbara Sher, author of Live the Life You Love, people who do
work that they are passionate about don't feel as if they're
working at all. Roll all of those characteristics together, translate
them into corporate parlance, and what you have is increased
Yet, cynics will tell you that there are limits to what companies
can do for their employees. After all, businesses exist to make
profits, not to make sure that employees are fulfilled. "There's
only so much a company can do to help a data entry clerk find
meaning in work," says Daniel Levine, editor of Disgruntled.com,
a Web site devoted to employee issues. "People should give
up the notion that work is everything and search for fulfillment
outside of their jobs."
But that's just the problem. Few Americans have been conditioned
to think of work as something that should be meaningful. We go
to college, learn job skills, and then find companies that use
those skills in exchange for a paycheck. Few college courses--or
high school classes, for that matter—emphasize the importance
of doing work that is satisfying. Consequently, generations of
Americans have viewed work as a place to make a living, but the
living itself takes place after hours.
take the first step to find meaningful work
|Men whose trade is rat-catching love to catch rats; the bug destroyer seizes on his bug with delight; the suppressor is gratified by finding his vice.|