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How to find meaning in work
 

How to find meaning in work

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This is a presentation I gave at an Occupational Psychology Conference in England, 2009....

This is a presentation I gave at an Occupational Psychology Conference in England, 2009.

It outlines the results of my research into meaning in work. I explain what meaning in work is, how to find it and why it matters.

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  • I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t that I was unhappy it was as though my life was missing something I felt, in fact…
  • Uneasy.
  • Why did I feel uneasy when I had so much going for me? I thought and thought about this for years and evenutally realised. My life lacked....
  • Specifically, meaning in work.
  • So I gave it all up to follow that notably lucrative profession of psychology and I set up my own business in the world’s biggest recession. And when I was doing my research last year at Goldsmiths the obvious question was:
  • Let’s start at the beginning.
  • Lots of different opinions about what meaning is. If my model is to work, I need to clarify.
  • You can boil the literature down to two things: meaning is comprehension and purpose.
  • This man clarified it for me.
  • At least I assume it was this man. The only other Eric Klinger is the lead singer of a band called Bloodclot.
  • Let’s say that Anna’s purpose today is to kill a buffalo. Let’s also say that on my way to kill a buffalo I meet a lion. If I see a lion I will be scared. But at least being scared I know what action to take. This action is what might allow her to survive. But if I don’t understand something, if I don’t understand the threat I don’t know how to respond. If I see a pair of eyes staring at her or hears something from the bush but can’t make out what it is, then I feel something different.
  • Remember this?
  • Aha! is affectively pleasant – see Barbara Fredrickson.
  • Aha repsonse is affectively pleasant. We get rewarded for understanding the world around us. Barbara Fredrickson please read! The references are in the slide packs.
  • That can be about anything at all. For example, a word...
  • In a sentence to understand its meaning.
  • And the meaning can change depending on the context... Meaning is about comprehension in context.
  • Comprehension is essential to survival. We understand ourselves in context. Things we do not understand cause us discomfort. This is why Frankl argued we have a drive to coherence.
  • A stonrg purpose means you try more things, do more things, commit to more things and over time experience and make sense of more stimuli than those with a weaker purpose. This means that over time you will comprehend more of the stimuli that reach you and you understand yourself better, others better and the workld better. Understanding = meaning.
  • Purpose is what drives us, in the course of pursuing our purpose we begin to comprehend things. We comprehend the world, other people, other things, and ultimately ourselves and where we fit in the world. Whilst everyone has purpose, the strength or clarity of purpose can vary. For example, Emmons (2005) found that unifying and deeply held goals (i.e. as part of a religious framework), invest human existence with greater meaning, but that goal conflict impairs wellbeing. purposes are responsible for the nature and extent of potentially aversive external stimuli encountered on a daily basis. Over time, this increases an individual’s understanding of themselves, their organisation, and how they fit within the world around them (Steger & Dik, in press).
  • True of organisations and true of people too.
  • Whilst everyone has purpose, the strength or clarity of purpose can vary. For example, Emmons (2005) found that unifying and deeply held goals (i.e. as part of a religious framework), invest human existence with greater meaning, but that goal conflict impairs wellbeing. purposes are responsible for the nature and extent of potentially aversive external stimuli encountered on a daily basis. Over time, this increases an individual’s understanding of themselves, their organisation, and how they fit within the world around them (Steger & Dik, in press).
  • If you understand where you fit in with your organisation and where your organisation fits in the world, then you understand it well and you will experience greater meaning than those who do not.
  • Survey 500 people, 400 usable results.
  • Even better...self and transcendent purpose both correlated significantly but transcendent much higher.
  • For hierarchical regression fans.... Rsq after controlling for age the model accounts for nearly 70% of the variation in meaning at work.
  • Meaning at work is a mediator of these outcomes.
  • And find a way of using them at work
  • If you want meaning at work, don’t do it just for the money, even if you argue that you need the money for your family. Set your sights higher than that.
  • This is what the company I’ve helped set up does. It helps organisations and individuals to understand themselves better so they make better decisions, have better conversations and ultimnately find meaning in their lives.

How to find meaning in work How to find meaning in work Presentation Transcript

  • Testing an Individual Model of Meaning in Work Rob Archer, Goldsmiths University Supervisor: Professor Frank Bond
  •  
  •  
  • Job Prospects Money Flat Holidays
  •  
  •  
  • Uneasy
  • Why?
  • Meaning
  • Job Prospects Money Flat Holidays X X X X X
  • Credit crunch: A sickness in the heart of Britain Credit crunch 'hits small firms' Financial sector to lose 15,000 jobs -confidence in City plunges Get used to lengthening dole queues - and fear for a lost generation
  • Credit crunch: A sickness in the heart of Britain Credit crunch 'hits small firms' Recession: Financial sector to lose 15,000 jobs and confidence in the City plunges We had all better get used to lengthening dole queues - and fear for a lost generation What have I done?
  • What is meaning in work?
  • How can I find meaning?
  • What does meaning at work predict? What predicts meaning at work? Meaning in work
  • What is meaning?
  • “ Purpose” (Ryff & Singer) “ Connection” (Singer) “ Comprehension & Purpose” (Steger & Dik) “ Life matters in a broader sense” “ Order, coherence, Purpose” ( Reker & Wong) “ Purpose, value, efficacy, self worth” (Baumeister) “ Sense of coherence” ( Antonovsky) “ self transcendence” (Emmons) Meaning
  • Comprehension Purpose
  • Eric Klinger
  • Eric Klinger
  • All animals evolved to pursue goals We need to take action to survive. The role of cognition is to understand the world around us Emotions are a call to action
  • What if I DON’T understand something?
  • Uneasy
  • Aha!
  • Understand = Aha! Don’t understand = uneasy
  • Meaning = comprehension
  • apple
  • apple
  • Give me a bite of your apple
  • Give me a bite of your apple, said the murderer.
  • “ Humans have a drive to coherence”
  • Comprehension is the outcome of purpose
  • Purpose Hypothesis 1: Strength of purpose predicts meaning Meaning in work
  •  
  • “ Dent the universe”
  • Self Earn money Get promotion Comprehension (Meaning)
  • Self Earn money Get promotion Transcendent Dent the universe Improve the way the world works Comprehension (Meaning)
  • Self Transcendent Hypothesis 2: Transcendent purpose predicts meaning Purpose Meaning in work
  • Self Transcendent Use of strengths at work Hypothesis 3: use of strengths at work predicts meaning Purpose Meaning in work
  • Purpose Self Transcendent Use of strengths at work Work role fit Hypothesis 4: work role fit predicts meaning Meaning in work
  • N = 404
  • Purpose Self Transcendent Use of strengths at work Work role fit .629** .799** .649** Meaning in work
  • Purpose Self Transcendent Use of strengths at work Work role fit .399** .128** .629** .799** .649** Meaning in work
  • Purpose Self Transcendent Use of strengths at work Work role fit .089** -.043 .168** .562** .216** Rsq change = .688** Meaning in work
  • Employee engagement Psychological well-being Meaning in work
  • Employee engagement Psychological well-being .643** .594** Meaning in work
  • Purpose Self Transcendent Use of strengths at work Work role fit Employee engagement Psychological well-being Meaning at work as mediator… Meaning in work
  • If you want meaning at work:
  • Big conclusion coming
  • If you want meaning at work:
  • 1. Know your strengths
  • 2. Choose a company whose values you share
  • 3. Aim to ‘ dent the universe’
  •  
  • Postscript: this explains why...
    • We laugh when we understand something
    • Our greatest far is the fear of unknown
    • Rich people stick together / live in gated communities
    • Rich people become reclusive or adopt transcendent purpose
    • Religion is powerful
    • Sales teams tend to also socialise together
    • We are generally less happy in the information age
    • People tend to discount feedback
    • We invest song lyrics with truth
    • Using our strengths in life is so important