The Anatomy Of Meaningful Work

The Challenge: Sometimes finding meaningful work seems to be just a mix of luck and intuition.
The Science: A recent study reveals common components of fulfilling work.
The Solution: Use these gauges to find work that is meaningful for you! 

 

This week, I stumbled upon a fascinating article in the MIT Sloan Management Review written by Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden. They interviewed 135 people from 10 different walks of life in order to find out what makes their work especially meaningful – and also, what destroys their job-related sense of meaningfulness. While I’ve read other articles that provide valuable syntheses of meaning in work in the past (see here, here, and here), this one is especially rich in context, providing in-depth personal accounts of peoples’ experiences. This makes the findings especially palpable.

Here are some takeaways:

  • Meaningfulness is not dependent on the type of work. A garbage collector can experience the same amount of meaning in work as a nurse or a doctor.
  • Bosses (and specific leadership behaviors) are typically not perceived as a source of meaningfulness. Yet, they can easily destroy the perception of meaning in work.
  • More generalized, the creation of meaning in work is an individual endeavor, while its dismantling is caused by others, or the organizational system as a whole.

Moreover, the researchers describe several crucial components of meaningful work. They’ve inspired me to create this infographic based on their findings. Share and enjoy!

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