The role of values in finding meaning at work
If you are familiar with that feeling of multiple snoozing of the alarm on Monday mornings then the chances are you have been working inauthentically and feeling a lack of meaning at work. It takes a lot of energy to avoid the cognitive dissonance associated with going against ourselves. Our research and practice in the field show that authenticity is a key pathway to experiencing work as meaningful. Being authentic is something that most of us espouse as something that is important but what does it really mean and how do you achieve it?
The most simple definition is standing up for and acting consistently toward the things that we value. To be authentic we therefore need to understand what values we hold.
What are your work values?
This might seem like a simple question, but it’s one that may take a bit more consideration than rattling off the catch-all list of values printed in the employee handbook (which almost always include integrity). If you can’t name your top five or 10 values straight away you are not alone – most people can’t! Our values are generally deeply held and hidden from view. Here are some tips on how to discover them:
- Think about the times you were most happy at work. What were you doing? Who with? What was it that made you happy? e.g. it might have been striving toward a big deal or helping someone.
- Pretend you are retiring from work and looking back at your achievements at work: What made you most proud? What do people say it was like to work with you?
- Take these answers and brainstorm words descriptors around them. Choose the top five that resonate and most important to you. It should be possible to put them in order.
Linking work values with your own values
Finding ways at work to live your values will contribute to the meaningfulness and long-term happiness you feel at work. Think about the values you discovered above, and try to find ways in which they overlap with the values of the organisation you work for and how you can demonstrate them. For example, if you and your organisation really value integrity then think about how you demonstrate this. Is it saying no to a meeting you know you’ll have to reschedule later? Or perhaps it is simply running meetings on time. Even these small things will contribute to an overall feeling of authenticity.
If your values don’t match those of the company you work for, you’ll find a authenticity pathway block to meaningful work and find yourself back to snoozing the alarm in the mornings or drinking that extra glass of wine on a Sunday night.
It’s especially important to clearly define your own values for those who are looking for a new career or considering whether your current job suits you well or not. So it goes without saying, knowing your values is a key to being authentic and therefore experiencing meaning and happiness at work.
Author: Ross Reekie, Founder of Rise