Suddenly, Meaningful Jobs are a Big Issue?

If you’ve been swimming through wet cement in your job, you may be stunned to know that “meaningful” jobs are now a major subject. If you’re just trying to find a job of any kind, you may wonder why people are even talking about the impossible luxury of a “meaningful” job.

In fairness, the talk about meaningful jobs is pretty high-minded stuff. It’s not the usual patronizing, coma-inducing Blue Sky Babble From Beyond Any Possible Relevance. It’s properly researched information, based on what people find meaningful about their work.

Some of the findings include a description of those who find their work deeply meaningful:

  • People in creative jobs like design
  • People providing important services like nursing for other people
  • People who can see that the results of their work are helping others

The overall definition was jobs that have a positive effect on others. It’s interesting to note that many of these jobs have a “proof factor”, where people can see that their work is achieving something.

Before I introduce some very cynical views- I must in all honestly say that I’ve done a lot of advisory work which I found very meaningful. I got a lot of very good results. I did help people. I was happy to do the work. The same applies to all the highly creative work I’ve been doing for over a decade. I can appreciate the intentions of this discussion.

Having said that- What I can’t appreciate is the almost total lack of mention of real problems affecting billions of people. Reality has to get a word in somewhere in this discussion.

What’s being left out of the debate about the meaning of work is the pervasive, perverted global workplace culture. While people with working brains are able to digest the idea of meaningful work, the facts tell a very different story.

The workplace is pure hell for many people. It’s a virtual psychological and in some cases physical form of torture. In some cases, people are systematically targeted by workplace groups.

Psycho bosses are no myth. Statistics say that at least 10% of managers are clinically psychotic. Unfair job practices are no myth. Vicious office persecutions, bullying, and mindless business practices aren’t myths, either. Disincentives swarm through many workplaces like flies on rotting meat.

Even the best job can become a brutal, wounding experience in these environments. A management culture which spends more time in endless meetings playing pecking order games than doing its job is hardly likely to be discussing “meanings” for its employees.

Then there’s the issue of pay. Sorry to bring such a mundane subject in to the debate, but:

  • How much meaning can you find in $10 an hour?
  • Does this orgasmic level of reward really add to your motivation?
  • Does constant worry about the bottom line add to your sense of meaningful work?
  • Would you bail out in to a better paying job instantly?
  • Pay peanuts, and you get absentee monkeys. You’re recruiting for crew on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. Try telling the starving monkeys that it’s “meaningful work.”

The wage debate, work conditions, management and even basic employment practices all have a serious impact the whole idea of meaningful work.

How idealistic are people under constant threats and suffering insecurities and abuses of various kinds supposed to be? I used to write for a blog about the nursing profession. The stampede of experienced nurses, leaving jobs and in some cases, getting out of the profession altogether was endless.

The working conditions were invariably called intolerable. The workplace environments were routinely described as nuthouses, and the incidents of staff abuse were in plague numbers. Even people with decades of experience were leaving in droves. All of this is happening in one of the professions found to provide the most meaningful work.

I can respect a meaningful debate on a very important subject and the altruistic ideas on which it’s based. There is absolutely no doubt that improving the value of work to employees on the basis of meaningful work is a critical issue worth exploring.

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I cannot respect any avoidance of facts and practical issues. If this debate is to achieve anything, it has to be turned into a working, functional proposition. Basic motivation starts with real motives. Until that’s addressed, this debate is going nowhere.