As a leader, do you think about the jobs you hire people to do?
Study after study suggest that people want meaningful work that matters. When you think about it, that’s probably what you want too. Let’s face it—no one wants to get up early every weekday and head to a job where they have little to do, or where what they do is pretty meaningless.
And, even the most boring work can be meaningful if it supports something important.
I know several people recently who have been hired for jobs that are mundane and meaningless, and that really had very little actual work to do. These people hated their jobs because they were boring and didn’t mean anything. They mostly sat around doing nothing.
But. If you and your team are all on the same page about the goal, if you are all working together and passionate about meeting that goal and really making it happen—nothing can stop you.
Some employers might say “well…they are getting paid good money!” However, it is demoralizing for anyone to have a meaningless job.
People want to be challenged, busy, engaged, and they want to care about the work they do.
There are two lessons here for leaders:
1. Start with the WHY. Why do you do the work that you do? What difference is being made in the world? Who is this work helping, and how are they being helped? Even the most mundane work is meaningful when it supports a higher goal. Once again I am reminded of the janitor who, when asked what kind of work he did at NASA, responded that he was helping to put a man on the moon.
Even when people are supporting a higher goal, they need to be included and engaged in planning and strategy so they can see how their role fits into that meaningful goal. If they are not included and consulted, they feel like everyone around them is engaged in changing the world, and they aren’t part of the process. This leads them to feel meaningless and that the work they are doing doesn’t matter.
2. PLEASE don’t create job descriptions that only require meaningless, mundane work. With the job descriptions you create, always ask yourself what makes this job a good one—one that you or someone you care about would want to do? The hope is that the person you bring on to do the job will become someone you care about, so make sure every single job includes interesting, challenging and meaningful tasks.
Include in the job description, in your training, and in an ongoing way how the job helps to accomplish something meaningful. Express appreciation for the work being done and celebrate when it is done well. Even janitors need you to notice when they do a great job.
Meet with your people regularly and ask them how they like the work they are doing. Are they challenged? What would make it better? What can you do to help them feel engaged and part of the bigger mission?
Demoralized workers bring a culture down pretty quickly. Take some time to think through each person’s job on your team and work with them to make sure what you are asking them to do is meaningful. Craft your job descriptions to incorporate meaningful work.
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