Want Meaningful Work? Bosses, Stay Out

This should come as no surprise -- meaningful work is not created by your boss, but you.  Did you know, though, that meaningful work can be destroyed by your boss?

According to a new study, bosses play no role in fostering a sense of meaningfulness at work - but they do have the capacity to destroy it and should stay out of the way, new research shows.

Newswise.com reports that the study by researchers at the University of Sussex and the University of Greenwich shows that quality of leadership receives virtually no mention when people describe meaningful moments at work, but poor management is the top destroyer of meaningfulness.

I should know.  I couldn't count on the fingers on one hand the number of bosses I've had who have (sometimes, intentionally) tried to shut me down when it comes to trying to create work that means something to me.  I even had one boss try to get me fired because I spoke up to his boss about looking for more work, trying to find something more meaningful in what I did.

Probably not a surprise to anyone but meaningfulness at work tends to be intensely personal and individual, and is often revealed to employees as they reflect on their work.

So what managers can do to encourage meaningfulness is limited, "though what they can do to introduce meaninglessness is unfortunately of far greater capacity," the website notes.

Over 130 people working in 10 very different occupations, from priests to garbage collectors,were asked about incidents or times when the workers found their work to be meaningful and, conversely, times when they asked themselves, "What's the point of doing this job?"

I have to say I've had more jobs than I can count where I've asked myself that question over and over.  As a public relations consultant in the corporate world, it's quite easy to get tired of executives wanting to prune your words and replace "motivate" with "incentivize."

"In experiencing work as meaningful, we cease to be workers or employees and relate as human beings, reaching out in a bond of common humanity to others," say researchers. "For organizations seeking to manage meaningfulness, the ethical and moral responsibility is great, since they are bridging the gap between work and personal life."

 We all know what meaningful work is.  It's work that makes us feel good about ourselves.  I currently write (unpaid) op eds for my regional newspaper and though I don't make a dime from it, I find so much more satisfaction doing this than any job where I made $75 (yes) an hour writing press releases filled with mumbo-jumbo to please my bosses.

To be fair, I've also had bosses who have inspired and challenged me.  That, I would say, is the perfect environment in which to work.  But sadly, it's very rare.

While the challenges of helping employees find meaningful work are great, "the benefits for individuals and organizations that accrue from meaningful workplaces can be even greater," the authors write.


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