1) Strong emotional longing; 2) Eager; 3) Filled with compassion or tenderness.
Notice how many people view their work. Have you ever wondered why most heart attacks occur at nine o’clock on Monday morning? If we were honest, is this not how many people view their work world – never-ending slavery that only ceases once we are liberated through retirement (or a good outplacement package)? It is the distress of work as a soul-deadening experience.
Recognize the soul’s longings. The soul yearns for something more. This longing to make a difference is fundamental to our core need as humans. It is part of our eternal search for meaning and why it is so heart-breaking when people feel their work gives them nothing to strive for – evidenced also by the numbers who ‘coincidentally’ call in sick on Monday and Friday mornings.
Answer the soul’s cries through a lofty vision and uncompromising values. If you protest that employers do not owe people a sense of meaning we have some ‘bad’ news for you. If that is your philosophy, then you must also accept that your organization is operating at a fraction of its potential due to your failure to engage what is most important to employees. There is a measurable and real cost to suboptimal performance.
Cease the burnout. Never become the type of employer who is overflowing in your praise for people all the while that they sacrifice their personal lives to rescue you time and again, only to turn your back on those same super-performers the minute they are so burned out that they refuse to save your hide anymore. People are not to be treated as slaves!
Acknowledge the costs of resignation on-the-job. When people resign on the job, others must inevitably pick up the slack and so too become demoralized themselves. The ‘hard’ costs of this situation are in the form of decreased production while a full salary is being earned and increased rework as lack of caring so frequently results in expensive mistakes that take extra effort by others to fix.
Take ownership for your part in creating apathy. It is such an unfortunate tragedy when employers will not take responsibility for their role in creating an environment where people have left, if not physically, then emotionally, mentally and spiritually. If employers are willing to admit culpability, there is hope – hope to also restore lackluster marketplace results that go hand in hand with internal issues.
Stop deluding yourself about motivating through return-on-investment. Monopoly-sized market percentages and jumps in customer satisfaction ratings do not resonate with people’s souls. Rallying under crisis does not spark passionate commitment from employees to achieve the impossible. Typical business accomplishments as measured by profit-based goals do not satisfy soulful yearning.
Avoid believing a solution is to pay more. Humans were not created singularly for the pursuit of material success, although earning an acceptable living is fundamental to feeling successful. But money should not replace leaders’ desire
to help employees lead meaningful lives. You cannot buy your way to meaning, or choose to pay more and then expect to extract people’s last drop of blood.
Adapt to changing demands of what is meaningful. “Generation X” has watched as both their parents spent years toiling in organizations only to be cast out in re-engineering blitzes later in life. Now they are righting what they see as lack of balance between working and living. They see work as a means to an end and are prepared to end it if it does not offer the means! A dramatic shift in collective values.
Create a different definition of meaning at work. Soul-inspiring leaders know millions are pleading through a universal cry for meaning, purpose and character in organizational life. They see to it that time spent at work makes a difference rather than being mindless. They answer people’s yearning to meet their deepest human needs through settings that create a sense of fulfillment and contribution.
Questions For Reflection
How would you answer the question: “My life is meaningful because…”?
List the accomplishments in your life to date of which you are most proud, noting how many involve work. Are there too few or too many in this category, and what does this mean to you?
If you learned you had three months to live, in what ways would you reorganize your life? If you would make changes, what is stopping you from living with this sense of meaning now, with your ‘whole’ life ahead of you?