Knowing your work is meaningful – needed and valued by others – is a key contributor to employee engagement and a frequent topic
of this blog as well as others. Penelope Trunk recently wrote about five steps to make work meaningful. Her last step, however, is foundational to all the others (quoting):
5. Look for opportunities. My step-mom had cancer for more than a decade. She had a breast removed, she went into remission, then back to the hospital, then remission. At first I thought her life was becoming crazy and how could she cope? But then I saw that the best thing for her was that she kept going to work. The stability in her life was her job. She couldn’t control the cancer, or the treatments, or her energy, but she could control her workload and she could meet her goals when she was there.
When she couldn’t be at the office, her co-workers took over her workload so her job would be there for her when she returned. Every time.
When an office comes together to support someone in crisis the whole office is infused with meaning. The strength they gave my step-mom by enabling her to come to work, in turn gave strength to the family members trying to help take care of her.
Work has meaning because it provides stability in our lives, and we create meaning by helping co-workers to use that stability to be brave and strong in the rest of life.
Look around you, all the time–look for people at work who need help with their work. Caring for your co-workers might be the most meaningful part of work for all of us.
Getting this one point right – lifting your head up out of your own work to look around and help others – can be what you need to find the meaningfulness in your own work.
Sometimes, you can’t help those around you, but you can notice what they are doing and thank them for their efforts.
As my American friends and colleagues prepare for the Thanksgiving holidays, I’d like to take this platform to thank them for all they do that makes my work meaningful. I greatly enjoy my work with my colleagues at Globoforce and with our clients. Not only is it fun, what we do changes the way people feel about themselves and the value of their contributions.
Who would you like to thank? Who helps make your work meaningful?
About Derek Irvine
The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.