Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Meaning at work

March 14th, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The recent events in Japan along with recent events in my own small world, have focussed my thinking on the link between work and ‘life.’  The idea of ‘making a difference’ or doing something ‘meaningful’ at work has always resonated with me.  I have been fortunate enough to have landed in a career where it is easy to derive meaning – both through my research and my teaching.  I determine my own research program so I choose topics that I find impactful.  In the realm of teaching, I have the opportunity to engage with many different types of students.  Depending on who they are and where they are, there are all kinds of ways to develop meaningful and important relationships.  I rely heavily on the flexibility within my work and the associated relationships when the larger world looms in my consciousness.  This is how I wake up on Monday following an earthquake that kills thousands and still feel as though I have an important job to do.  

I would be really curious to hear about what ‘does it‘ for you?  Now, I am not naive.  I recognize that most people get up and get themselves to work because they have to – as do I.  There are bills to pay and people to support.  The question I am asking is, do you go to work feeling as though there is something important to be done even when faced with personal or global tragedy?  If yes, what is it about your work that makes you feel as though your contribution is important and meaningful?  If not, what is missing?  

There is a large literature on happiness at work and even more on job satisfaction.  Those literatures certainly inform this discussion – as does the vast research on work motivation.  However, today, I think the stakes have changed a bit.  We are so connected to the larger world and to one another in a way that we have not been in the past.  I watched real time video of the tsunami hitting Japan.  I can check my Facebook and see quickly who is ill, who has experienced a loss, and who is out of a job.  It feels as though there is more ‘bad’ news than ever today, but I am inclined to believe that in part this has something to do with our access to the news.  Research in psychology clearly tells us that our own hardship is compounded by the difficulties of those around us.  In fact, when we are experiencing hardship, we are more likely to hold a ‘negative schema’ (or negative view of the world) and as a result, more likely to take note of the negative events.  

In the face of all of this ‘bad news’ what keeps you connected, engaged, and satisfied in your work?  What makes you believe that it is important to answer your emails and attend the 4pm meeting?  What makes you run the race?  Let me know.


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