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Dr. Matt Grawitch: March 2010 Archives

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A recent article reported on a study of workers from different generations. According to the study results, younger workers (so-called Millennial employees) reported with greater frequency than their older counterparts (Generation X and Baby Boomers) that “work is just making a living.” I read that and thought, “I’m so sorry you feel that way!”

Apparently, this group of employees wants high pay, a slow pace, and plenty of vacation time. Elsewhere, I have commented about how idealistic this perspective seems to be, but here I’d like to address the shortsightedness of that perspective.

My concern is that these employees will operate under the assumption that work serves as nothing but a means to an end – that it’s all about just making money. This seems like a very pessimistic view of work, especially given how many hours we give to our employers. The outcomes you get out of your work role can vary depending on whether you view it as a job, a career, or a calling. Sure, when you view your work role as a job, it is nothing more than a simple exchange (your time and effort for their money), but it can provide you with so much more. When you view your work role as a career, it can also give an opportunity to meet your own needs (e.g., achievement, creativity, or social interaction), which in turn makes you happier and more fulfilled. What is more, when you view your work role as a calling it can provide you with an opportunity to contribute to society.

I hope that some of those people who think work is just about making money happen into a work role that provides them with more fulfillment. After all, who wants to look back at their life and think that they gave half or more of their waking hours each week to something that just gave them money in return?

Perhaps this should serve as an awakening to a lot of employers out there. Help your employees find meaning in their work. Not every employee can or should view every work role as a career or a calling. However, if you make an effort and ask your employees what they need, you may be able to help them to be engaged in what they do for you. If organizations provide employees with the tools to take something (besides a paycheck) away from the work they perform, then both sides will win.

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