Poor Management Destroys Meaning at Work
If I ask you, “What gives meaning to your work”, what would you say? There can’t be a common answer to this question. What gives meaning to an individual’s work is highly subjective. It depends on the individual’s personal experience, self-perception and values. You would agree that the sense of meaning at work does not necessarily come from the managers. It has nothing to do with employee engagement, commitment or morale. Yet, it is possible that poor management can render work meaningless and insignificant for employees.
Jack’s colleagues were shocked when they heard that he had resigned from his job. Among them, he was the only one who derived meaning and purpose from his work. Jack’s productivity, quality of work and efficiency were far greater than his colleagues. His manager understood this and started taking Jack for granted. Jack was loaded with more work which was occasionally even unrelated to his job profile.
Initially Jack took pride in this, but eventually the workload got to him. As such, Jack stopped enjoying his work because he was constantly under pressure to meet deadlines. He also started feeling that many a times he was doing pointless work for his manager, and was being treated unfairly in comparison to other colleagues who were getting the same compensation, but got away with lesser work and time.
Clearly, Jack’s manager destroyed his productivity and sense of meaningful work. But squeezing out employees with workload is not the only way to kill their passion.
Managers can undermine the meaningfulness of work for their direct employees through everyday words and actions. These include dismissing the importance of employees’ work or ideas, shifting goals frequently, and switching people off project teams before the work is finalized. These leave employees anxious and destroys their sense of ownership. Sometimes, managers are unable to co-ordinate between different departments and functions. This sends mixed signals to employees who can lose sense of purpose in work.
While managers cannot add meaning to employee’s sense of work, they should be vigilant to at least not destroy it.