May 5th, 2015
A national newspaper used to run a column entitled; “If I were king for a day”; where guest contributors outlined what law they would decree in such an event. The broadcaster, Jeremy Paxman, chose to banish open-plan offices. In his usual indomitable style, he outlined the case against such offices;
“An open-plan office is a way of telling you that you don’t matter…..it tells us precisely what our bosses think of us – that we are employed to fulfil a mechanical task and that we are all interchangeable. Deliberately inventing an uncreative environment is one thing. But it is worse than that…..because the space belongs to no one, it is noisy and grubby…there is nowhere for a quiet chat.”
Open plan offices can be particularly difficult for introverts, but by their very nature, they are disinclined to voice their views when the layout of offices is considered. In personality terms, an introvert is not someone who is shy; they simply find solitude revitalising and social interactions tiring (even if they are very enjoyable). With extroverts, it’s the other way around. Since extroverts readily communicate who they are, they can be easily understood by introverts. It can be more difficult for extroverts to understand introverts, but there are advantages in doing so. Consequently, if you’re an extrovert, click here to find out how. While introverts are often encouraged (often for good reason) to be more ‘extrovert’, there are others who (quietly) outline the benefits to extroverts of introspection, particularly when it comes to creativity. A prime example is the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain. For this reason Quiet is mch’s ‘Resource of the Quarter’. To access more resources on a range of development topics, go to mch’s free Resource Centre.View comments >
June 20th, 2014
As a follow up to yesterday’s blog on meaningfulness at work, recent research suggests that a meaningful life does not lead to happiness. Indeed people who consider themselves to lead meaningful lives are likely to be less happy than those who don’t. Click here to listen to an audio summary of the research. The audio clip also discusses research that challenges the view that men’s and women’s brains are genuinely different.View comments >
June 19th, 2014
The Case For
Over the decades, research has indicated that having a job with purpose and meaning is the top priority for most employees (1). A significant body of research has also looked at the contributors to delivering meaning at work (2). These include autonomy, being in an environment that allows you to improve and working on a project from start to finish. However, the most important contributor to meaning is a belief that your job makes an important and positive difference in the lives of others. A recent article by Adam Grant at Wharton Business School summarises such a finding (3).
Grant’s article also outlines two ways in which meaningfulness at work can be improved:
Connecting directly with the end user/beneficiary Grant cites the example of university fundraisers increasing their weekly fundraising by 400% when they met students whose scholarships were funded by their work.
- Crafting your job Not all jobs are designed to have a significant impact on others. In such instances, flexibility is required to add, remove, adjust or increase certain attributes of the role. For example, the retention, quality and effectiveness of hospital cleaners improved when they stepped up to provide emotional support to patients, in addition to their cleaning duties.
The Case Against
Expecting work to be deeply meaningful can be an unrealistic societal expectation and an unhelpful source of pressure. For some, rejecting such an expectation and ‘working to live’ can prove a very freeing and positive approach. Such an approach can lead to practical changes which improve things further e.g. working less. Indeed on the basis that it is viable for the individual and acceptable to the company, asking yourself the following question can really focus the mind:
‘Is less time at work, really worth the reduction in how much I will have to spend during my increased free time?’
For others a change of focus can be helpful: focusing on what you have, rather than what’s missing.
As with many things, a key ‘watch’ word here is balance. Given that you’re likely to have to spend a significant amount of your life working, it makes sense to get as much satisfaction out of it as you can. Furthermore, focusing on improving your work’s meaningfulness would seem a good place to start. Equally though, investing too much of yourself in your job, in attempt to find meaning, risks associating yourself too closely with your work…….and then what happens when work ends?
I believe a unifying perspective is that there is no bad job, just a bad fit. Such a perspective engenders an obligation. Emotions are catching; and so if you are unhappy at work it will almost certainly have an adverse effect on your colleagues as well as yourself. Consequently, finding a job that’s right for you is perhaps the most important way your jobs can make a positive difference in the lives of others.
(1) Changes in Workers, Work, and Organizations. Article found in Handbook of Psychology, W.F. Cascio.
(2) Integrating motivational, social, and contextual work design features: A meta-analytic summary and theoretical extension of the work design literature.Humphrey, Stephen E.; Nahrgang, Jennifer D.; Morgeson, Frederick P. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 92(5), Sep 2007, 1332-1356. See also Daniel Pink’s work on motivation.
(3) The #1 Feature of a Meaningless Job, Adam Grant, First Published: 30/1/14View comments >
January 17th, 2014
During the festive break, I returned to the town of my birth, Dumfries in Scotland.
While waiting for a bus, I got talking to a local man outside a local school. After a police car had whizzed past with sirens blaring, he informed me that the Scottish Police Crest (pictured above) had been designed by one of the Art teachers at the school behind us. Curiosity peaked, I ‘googled’ the crest when I got home. The Latin phrase on the crest, Semper Vigilo, means Always Watchful.
Later the same day, I was asked by a relative about my work and the conversation got on to how I keep my training ‘fresh’.
‘How do you go about updating and developing your existing training courses?’
While answering I was reminded of the phrase ‘Semper Vigilo’ as it articulates how much of mch’s training develops. Essentially, keeping training fresh requires mch to be ever watchful for new ideas. On reflecting further I saw how several recent iterations to training materials had initially come from very varied (and non-traditional) sources. These included:
- Taking a quick glance at the host’s book shelf during a dinner party
- Reading a magazine I never normally read while waiting for a haircut. -Listening to a radio programme during a long car journey
Through discussions with others, the act of being ‘semper vigilo’, always watchful, appears to be a very effective way to approach learning and development in general. Consequently, I hope you adopt the semper vigilo approach to your own learning in 2014.View comments >