Why we search for meaning in the workplace
As you know if you read our articles regularly, our work takes us into a broad range of organisations of all sizes, and although artificial intelligence and robotics are approaching more quickly than some would like, the one thing these organisations all have in common is that they still need people for the business to succeed.
Where people are involved there is uniqueness, individuality and a wide variety of perspectives. While that is wonderful and offers diversity of thought and opinion, there needs to be a focal point for their efforts and also momentum to keep moving forward, particularly in business.
The impetus comes from each person's level of motivation, both external and internal, which can be very different. For example, one person may feel motivated by working towards something they want (eg. success, comfortable retirement) while another is motivated by, or avoiding, something they don't want (eg. losing their job).
While it may be easy to assume that everyone is motivated purely by money, research indicates that once someone feels they are being fairly paid for what they do they start looking for something more. Dan Pink describes this in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and suggests there are other more intrinsic elements that we seek - mastery, autonomy and purpose.
Mastery is about continuous improvement, our desire to feel that we are making progress and developing ourselves and our skills. It is also important as we develop our mastery that we do not feel overly challenged or under-stimulated, that the balance is 'just right' as we are encouraged to gradually move outside our comfort zone and grow.
Autonomy. We make hundreds of decisions each day in our own lives, yet in many traditional workplaces we are told what to do and expected to comply versus being asked what to do offering our knowledge, expertise and experience to make improvements.
If we are continually told what to do, we may start to feel disenfranchised, disheartened and disengage as a result.
Dan Pink also describes different aspects of autonomy; time (the desire for flexibility and freedom within agreed parameters), technique (choosing how we go about it), team (selecting who we work with) and task (what we prefer to do, applying our skills).
Purpose is about doing something that serves the greater good, to do things that matter, to make a difference. In an organisation that can be achieved by engaging the workforce in a conversation about the purpose, vision and values of the business and identify how they can contribute to its success. It helps people to find their 'why'.
How about you? Does what you do help you achieve your Mastery, Purpose and Autonomy, and if it doesn't, what could you do differently than what you are doing now to improve things and achieve that MAP?
Rowena Hardy is a facilitator and coach at mindsaligned.com.au