Meaning or Money?
Meaning or Money?

Meaning or Money?

If I offered you R2 500 a day to write articles for me, and when you handed them in I just deleted them without even reading them and said thanks, would you take the job? At first glance you might think, “sure, easy money, no stress, where do I sign”. Now, what if I tell you that that is all you are going to do for the next 5, 10 or even 20 years. Does it change your answer? I’m prepared to bet that the majority of people when faced with this question willlifetree not even do the job for more than a month.

I would like to put in a proviso in the above statement that reflects on Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you are low down on this pyramid you will probably do anything to ensure that your basic needs are met, and would not give a damn if your work is used or not. So, bear in mind that I am talking about people who have jobs, homes, and their basic needs met.

Dan Ariely in his book “The upside of Irrationality”, poses the question of are we merely rats in a maze, wanting to get to the food with the least amount of effort, or is the meaning of the maze more important to us?

In the modern connected work environment, employees are wanting to understand the meaning in their work more and more. They share their experiences on Facebook and Twitter. They tweet about their existence at every opportunity. The resultant effect is a mirror is being held up to their lives that shouts who they are. Self awareness stops being an after hours thought and meaning becomes more important. Hence we are seeing higher levels of dissatisfaction in the workplace than ever before.

The modern manager therefore has a responsibility. This responsibility is to ensure that every member of his/her team understands their position and the role they have to play. He/she needs to manage not only the work output component but also the work perception component. Work perception revolves around all the components about what people think and feel in their jobs. These include but are not limited to: Is my work valued? Am I a member of a winning team? Do people recognise me for who I am in the team? Am I seen as a dispensable component? Today’s manager needs to be able to take all these components into account in order to maximise the value of the team.

The old way of looking at employee productivity stated:

Employee Productivity = High Work Output(WO)

My suggestion is that we re look at this in a holistic view:

Employee Productivity = High Work Output (WO) + High Work Value Perception (WVP)

I would even suggest that a greater focus on Work Value Perception will lead to high work output and that managers should reconsider where they spend most of their time. Spend less time on sales forecasts and more on life forecasts.

Help your team. Create your life!


  1. Interesting read, but I think it has a flaw. My day job doesn’t need to provide any meaning beyond its facilitating my ability to pay bills. My meaning comes from the relationships I have with people and the volunteer work I do outside of my 7-4 existence. It may go against the teachings of Marshall Goldsmith, noted life coach, who I have been reading a lot lately, but I really don’t NEED to find meaning at my day job. I NEED to get paid from my day job to be able to pay bills. Now, I still perform at the highest level possible, because that is my work ethic and what I try and do for all endeavors I undertake, but as for meaning, it doesn’t necessarily need to be found there.

  2. kevind

    Thanks for the comment Steven. I think your point is valid for many people. However, keep in mind that my article was directed at people managers. The aim is to get them to focus on assisting employees to create meaning in their day jobs and in doing so, improve productivity. While we all need to pay the bills, the fact that most people spend the majority of their waking hours in an un-fulfilling existence is still an issue. There is no doubt that finding fulfillment outside of the workplace is one way of ensuring happiness, but the best solution is to achieve both. Thanks again for your comments.

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