When your boss asks, “What do you really want to achieve in this career?”, how will you answer? Better career development? Better work-life balance? Better salary? Or higher promotion?
The answer is likely one of those options but as time goes by, your answer might change depending on your situation. In short, regardless of what you really want, there is no fixed answer to that question because our decision can constantly change according to a certain situation we are encountering.
According to a study by Stephen Fleming, every decision we make comes with a degree of confidence that we have made the right call. If confidence is sufficiently low, we might change our minds and reverse our decision. That said, if an employee’s confidence towards the answer “what do you really want in this career?” is at a low level, the said employee can never discover his purpose or what he really wants to achieve at the company. In other words, the said employee will only keep wandering around without being able to function thoroughly.
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One of the biggest problems an employee can have is being unable to discover his purpose of life, what he wants to do and why he wants to do it in the first place. In simple term, the employee has no vision regarding their professional life – something which sooner or later can lead to career damage. When this happens, the organisation would be affected directly as well.
Another impact of not having a purpose for employees is that it might lead to the feeling of exclusion and loneliness. If your employee has no interest or goal to achieve and is being surrounded by co-workers who are diligently racing for their goals, the said worker will likely feel excluded from the team. Why? Because when his coworkers are busy working towards their goals, he is still unable to understand the meaning of his work. The feeling of exclusion, then, might lead to loneliness which is the core of mental health problems, including depression, stress, and anxiety, as cited in research.
Susan Perry’s research also revealed that having a life purpose linked to a longer life. There is a strong association between life purpose and mortality, meaning if employees have and/or find their purpose at their workplace, they will likely have a longer expectation of productivity and loyalty. On the contrary, Perry said, employees might consider moving to find their life purpose somewhere else.
That being said, having no purpose in the workplace can lead to several severe negative consequences, including loneliness, depression/stress, high turnover, low productivity, and declining profits.
So, how should HR help? There are some simple solutions to help employees find their meaning/purpose in the workplace. Based on Jeremy Adam Smith survey, here are some tricks to help your employees live a better work-life.
Giving thanks can help people find their meaning and purpose in life. When you appreciate someone, you will see how appreciation fuels their work. Jeremy Smith in his interview said that a sincere word of appreciation can mean a world to someone as it gives them a reason to live longer.
There is a writer, Smith told, who is also an activist of a community. She lacks a sense of purpose because she could not find meaning in her everyday’s job as an activist or writer. However, after a wildfire accident in her homeland in Santa Rosa, California, she discovered that her strengths were needed. The writer said, “I have found that my networking and emergency response skills have been really helpful to my community, my students, and to firefighters”, implying that she has finally discovered the meaning of her job and life. The appreciation shown by Santa Rosa citizens towards her actions has become the source of her career purpose as an activist and writer.
As mentioned earlier, confidence is the greatest asset to leading a meaningful life. Besides, having confidence can determine the three most crucial aspects of life purpose: 1) the size of challenges/goals you undertake, 2) how likely you will achieve those goals, and 3) how well you bounce back from failures. That being said, with confidence, employees will not have to constantly change their goals and thus, it helps them find a meaningful work-life.
When your employees still feel lost even after your encouragement, the last thing you could do is to give your employees some time to think. Before that, inform your employees that they should create a space with no external distraction to reflect on themselves and who they really are. You also need to let your employees know that finding the real purpose in one’s career is a long process which requires plenty of self-reflection and listening to others.
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