Role of Purpose in Workplace Happiness


A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.”

A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”

A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!”

Three men, three different attitudes, all basically doing the same job.

We all need and actually, have a purpose in our jobs.

As Annie McKee writes in this HRB article, people want to have a sense of purpose. People want to feel as if their work matters, and that their contributions help to achieve something really important. They want to know that they — and their organizations — are doing something big that matters to other people.

Every job has a purpose. No matter how simple the job initially looks to us. Let’s take cleaners for instance. Are they really just sweeping the floors? Or when working at the hospital they actually are helping to heal patients?

You might think now, yes, great thoughts, but so what? Why should I care?

Well, let me give you a few ideas why having a sense of purpose matters:

  • One of the traits of a successful team is that they feel that their work has meaning and they are making an impact. According to Google’s research of 180 Google teams, including 200-plus interviews and analyses of more than 250 different team attributes this is one of the main characteristics of enhanced teams. Groups that believe that their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good are more successful.
  • People who believe that their work has bigger purpose are more loyal. Research of more than 19,000 people of all levels in company and in different industries; found that employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are much more likely to stay with their organizations.
  • A Study of University of Alberta study shows that people who are able to find meaning and purpose in their work and can see how they make a difference through that work, are healthier, happier and more productive employees.

So how could you help your people to find the sense of purpose?

– Firstly, you need to find it yourself 🙂 What is this that your organization is doing, what is your role and purpose?

– Organize think tanks, workshops, seminars that help you to find the sense of purpose and communicate it to your people.

– Use visuals when communicating. Create colorful images, posters, videos that help to deliver the message to all levels of your organization.

– Use storytelling, this is easier to understand and accept.

– Have an employer advocate (preferably someone from your own employees) that you can use as a storyteller. Employees are the most credible source of information so don’t underestimate the word of mouth!

What is your experience? Let me know how do you help to create and communicate to sense of purpose among your organization!


Sources used in this post:

“I’m Building a Cathedral!”–The Role of Purpose in Motivation


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