Is happiness in what you do or how you do it?
Prestigious occupations are more likely to be seen as meaningful.
Despite this, research shows that seeing any job as having meaning confers many benefits, including increased happiness.
Working as a medical doctor, one could argue, lends itself more to meaning than work as a sec ondhand car dealer; similarly, Wrzesniewski’s research illustrates that employees who are higher in the organizational hierarchy are more likely to experience their work as a calling. But regardless of whether one is the CEO or a clerk, a physician or a salesperson, there is still much that a person can do to craft his work in a way that will maximize the yield in the ultimate currency—so that it is experienced more as a calling than as a job. In the words of Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton, “Even in the most restricted and routine jobs, employees can exert some influence on what is the essence of their work.”
In research Wrzesniewski and Dutton conducted on hospital cleaners, one of employees experienced their work as a job—as boring and meaningless—while the other group perceived the same work as engaging and meaningful. The second group of hospital cleaners crafted their work in creative ways. They engaged in more interactions with nurses, patients, and their visitors, taking it upon themselves to make the patients and hospital staff feel better. Generally, they saw their work in its broader context and actively imbued it with meaning: they were not merely removing the garbage and washing dirty linen but were contributing to patients’ well-being and the smooth functioning of the hospital.
Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.