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What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless

Consider your unique skills

Proactive employees use an approach where they redesign their work to better fit their strengths and interests.

During the current crisis you can fight the recession by keeping your business functioning, thereby feeding families. More significantly, you can shape your job to contribute solutions to the current problems of your community. By partnering with others, you can maximize your impact.

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What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless

What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless

https://hbr.org/2020/06/what-to-do-when-work-feels-meaningless

hbr.org

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Key Ideas

A feeling of purpose

During crises, we can feel a heightened sense of purpose and connection. Crises lead many people to find deep value in their work, develop professionally, and grow personally.

While most of us don't have frontline roles, we can still discover ways to contribute through our everyday work.

Small actions

You may feel overwhelmed and obsess over the big things you can't influence. Instead, try to act on whatever aspect you can control, regardless how small.

Try a number of things and see what works. Small actions can generate feedback and allow you to discover more meaningful goals.

Consider your unique skills

Proactive employees use an approach where they redesign their work to better fit their strengths and interests.

During the current crisis you can fight the recession by keeping your business functioning, thereby feeding families. More significantly, you can shape your job to contribute solutions to the current problems of your community. By partnering with others, you can maximize your impact.

An opportunity to connect

If you're in a tight situation, you may not be able to do much to enhance the meaningfulness of your work. However, you can find meaning by envisioning the future.

Think what your potential dream job might be in 10 years' time. Imagine many jobs. Now work backward to find the paths that will lead you there. Also explore where your current projects and passions could lead you.

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Steel Yourself

Before any word is uttered to the employees, you need to understand your role and channel your leader 'avatar' in a time of crisis, as if preparing for a battle. Your steel nerves will be contagious(!) to your team members. You need to sound convincing, and it’s a good idea to follow the basics, like eating well, plenty of sleep and regular exercise.

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A long-term response

Global crises are always challenging to navigate. When the time for immediate response passes, we have to dig in for the long haul.

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An employee-driven approach

Employees' health and well-being should come first. There may be a perceived choice between productivity and well-being. But, engagement is a natural by-product of well-being.

People are worried about health, job security, their kids' education, life on the other side of the crisis. Micro-managing will not create focus. Tactics like time-tracking software will only compound the problem. Instead, focus on easing their fears. The more distractions we as leaders can clear away, the more effective our people will be.

Guiding principles for a crisis response
  • Part of the response is to hold performance and growth check-ins to acknowledge the contribution each employee is making and help them manage their longer-term professional goals.
  • Err on the side of overcommunicating. Create a communication plan and be consistent. E.g., a daily email from the heads of each unit, or video messages from the CEO. Share even the bad news, to prevent employees from inventing their own stories to fill the void.
  • Keep a tight feedback loop. Know how your employees are coping, how their work is affected, and how they think leadership can help.
  • Be mindful of the resources you're consuming. Don't consume additional masks, disinfectants, and other supplies that hospitals need.

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Discovering your purpose is a process
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The four pillars of Purpose

The qualities that lead to a strong sense of purpose are awareness, values, aspirations, and congruent behaviors.

To activate them, the process looks like this: use awareness to connect with what’s alive within you; intention, to visualize your best life; alignment, to match your actions with your values; and resilience, to unhook from rigidity.

Awareness: paying attention to what you're experiencing

Awareness simply means paying attention to the experience you are having as you are having it.

You can practice awareness of your own sense of purpose simply by taking the time to acknowledge the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that appear when you consider your life and what purpose means to you.

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