Why We Need Meaningful Work
Several months ago, I had the opportunity to conduct job interviews
for a number of new positions at my organization. In all, I conducted
almost fifty interviews with candidates who had been pulled from
literally hundreds and hundreds of applicants. I was overwhelmed by
the number of people who applied and the quality of the applicants.
Every single one of them was already in what I thought was a really
good job. In many cases, the candidates would be required to take
pay cuts to move from high-paying corporate jobs into the nonprofit
sector, but that didn’t seem to faze them at all.
So I asked them all many questions, but their answers to one
question in particular seemed to have a common theme. I asked each
candidate, “You seem to have a great job at the moment. Why do you
want to leave?” Forty-eight of the fifty candidates replied that they
wanted to do something more meaningful with their lives, or with
some variation of the same idea. I believe this reflects the greatest
shift in the workplace of the twenty-first century and will affect corporate
America more than anything else in the next fifty years. People
want meaningful work.
In the 1980s, cash was king, and people seemed willing to work
a hundred hours a week as long as you paid them more money. The
1980s were all about money and possessions. In the 1990s, there was a
significant and noticeable shift in attitude away from an overwhelming
emphasis on financial compensation and toward a desire for leisure.
A growing number of people began to say, “I don’t care how
much money you pay me—I am just not willing to work more hours.
I don’t want more money as much as I want more freedom with my
schedule, more leisure time.”
Another factor is that throughout this entire period, the corporate
world has changed considerably, particularly when it comes to
loyalty. Many people who were laid off came to a frightening realization
about how little control they had over their destinies in the
corporate schema and, more strikingly, how little their efforts were
appreciated. For a whole variety of reasons, people have started to
take their lives back, emphasizing independence, family life, leisure,
and health and well-being.
The money focus of the 1980s evolved into the leisure focus of
the 1990s, and now there is a new trend emerging. People certainly
still want to be financially compensated and they want to have time
to spend with family and friends, but above all else, they yearn for
meaningful work. And they are willing to sacrifice some of the money
and leisure to have it. This shift in workplace attitude is only going to
gather more and more momentum as people continue to awaken to
their need to be engaged more passionately at work.
From Perfectly Yourself
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