Daily Paradox - Written by John Bittleston on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 23:11 - 1 Comment
The meaning of meaning
An evening of two halves. First, I caught up with an old friend – a successful banker who has been in the game for 30 years. He confessed “I fell out of love with banking after the tenth year.” “Then why do you stick at it?” I asked. “Because it is one’s duty to have a job and income,” came the self-assuring reply.
Later, a group of us were desperately trying to flag two taxis to take us to East Coast Seafood Centre for dinner. After a few failed attempts, a huge limousine taxi miraculously appeared. I sat in the front and struck up a conversation with the driver. The smiley, good-natured driver explained to me his taxi was a special limousine and normally, a ride in it would cost forty dollars. But he wasn’t going to charge that because we looked so happy and relieved to find him and he wanted us to have a smooth pleasant ride to a delicious dinner.
Two different jobs. The banker – way better paid, more glamourous but devoid of meaning. The driver - lower paid, less glamorous but he has repurposed the work to give a higher meaning. The driver did not view his job as simply moving passengers from point to point. He saw himself as a facilitator of our joyous experience and in the process, his job became more enjoyable.
Creating meaning in the day-to-day work of even the most apparently mundane activities is about changing the perspective of the doer. Meaning is truly in the eye of the beholder.
There are two types of meaning. Meaning at work relates to how an employee feels about the company and its mission, and their work environment. Meaning in work relates to how an employee feels about the specific job task. A thoroughly inspired person is someone who finds both meaning at and in work.
How do you rate your job and work environment in these two spheres?
If you run a company or are a leader at work, are you actively fostering meaning both at work and in work for those around you?
It is possible to have both meaning in and at work. As Studs Terkel once said “Work is about daily meaning as well as daily bread; for recognition as well as cash. We have a right to ask of work that it include meaning, recognition, astonishment and life.”
As a colleague or manager how can you add meaning to your fellow-workers’ jobs?
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by John Bittleston
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Companies that have a culture of recognising that a team is a group of individuals dedicated to a common cause – but individuals first, last and all the way through – is worth investing in.