Thought Fodder
thought fodder

Finding Meaning in Work

Fast Company is my new favorite business-y blog. The article I’m reading on the site this evening is about finding meaning in your work, indicating that companies that figure out how to make their missions and jobs meaningful to employees will typically see greater productivity and gains in income. If their employees are engaged and feeling full of purpose, companies will do better in general.

While that is useful information, it feels a bit “duh” to me. Certainly, if an employee feels like her life at work has meaning, she will be more productive. But the article is about companies creating missions with meaning that people feel good about contributing to. This shift has been coming for a while, with states adopting a new business structure, the B-Corp (short for Benefit Corporation) that allows private companies to be structured to provide public benefits other than profits for shareholders. (Minnesota passed the its B-Corp legislation in spring of 2014, with it taking effect January 1, 2015.) This is a good thing. Private businesses should feel some larger responsibility to the public than simply making lots of money for themselves.

What I appreciate about the Fast Company article (which is quite long but worth the read) is a new generational term it uses … Generation Flux. I’ve long been irritated by how often Gen X gets skipped over in reports about generations. Boomers and Millennials, along with a few Greatest Generationers, get most of the coverage and most of the props for everything happening in society. As a Gen Xer and historian, seeing Millennials get credit for the “new” trend toward entrepreneurship and expecting purpose in their careers rankles because it’s not as though magic fairy dust was sprinkled over Millennials and suddenly that’s the way things are. These trends were solidly taking root with Gen X and were certainly in evidence with previous generations, even if not experienced by a majority of these generations.

Using the term Generation Flux erases this tension because it’s not about when someone was born in history. According to the article, “Fluxers are defined not by their chronological age but by their willingness and ability to adapt. These are the people who are defining where business and culture are moving. And purpose is at the heart of their actions. ”

Creative hyphenates, a.k.a. multi-hyphenates, fit this definition. I believe most of us are multi-hyphenates but because business has traditionally been about money, not purpose, and has been segregated from our personal lives, we’ve never had to think of ourselves in this way. When we’re at work, we’re one thing; in our personal lives, we’re several other things, and never the twain shall meet, as though the skills and talents we use in our personal lives have no effect whatsoever on work. (Baloney!)

That’s never been the case but we’re only now figuring it out, probably in part because technology keeps us tethered to work after hours, but also because of this move to making sure our personal sense of purpose meshes with our employer’s larger mission. We’re also being told, because of the internet, that we need to cultivate a personal brand and mission statement. Individuals are becoming “businesses” even if they have nothing to sell, simply as a way to preemptively express who they are online before someone else does it for them.

This brings me to another Fast Company article I read recently, “Personal Mission Statements of 5 Famous CEOs (And Why You Should Write One Too)“. It seems to me that if Generation Fluxers are interested in working for companies with compelling missions, having them write personal mission statements would assist in determining whether their own mission works with that of their employer.

After reading the personal mission statement article, I’ve been giving some thought to creating my own and have made a couple of stabs at it. More thinking is needed.

Do you have a personal mission statement? If so, what is it?