Employees Want Their Jobs To Matter, But Meaning At Work Can Be Hard To Find

By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Jaclyn Jensen, associate professor in the department of management and entrepreneurship at DePaul University says a job’s meaningfulness is driven by five factors, the three most important being that it allows you to use a variety of skills, that it has an impact on other people’s lives and that you are able see the product of your work from beginning to end.

CHICAGO

Jennifer Ruiz holds her patient’s trembling hand as she presses a stethoscope to the frail woman’s chest and belly.

She compliments the woman on her recently painted fingernails. She cheerfully asks how she’s feeling, knowing she’ll get no answer from the little curled body in the big hospital bed but for a penetrating stare.

Ruiz, a hospice nurse, finds her work deeply meaningful, in part for reasons that are obvious: “We get to be there for people during some of the most tragic and tough times in their lives,” she said.

But even those who shepherd the dying and their families through the fear, heartbreak and mystery of the end of life can lose sight of a job’s meaning in the stress of the day-to-day, if their employer doesn’t foster it.

“You have to fan that flame,” said Brenda McGarvey, corporate director of program development at Skokie-based Unity Hospice, where Ruiz works. “It’s your responsibility.”

A job’s meaningfulness, a sense that the work has a broader purpose, is consistently and overwhelmingly ranked by employees as one of the most important factors driving job satisfaction. It’s the linchpin of qualities that make a valuable employee: motivation, job performance and a desire to show up and stay.

Meaningful work needn’t be lofty. People find meaning picking up garbage, installing windows and selling electronics, if they connect with why it matters.

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