Meaning in Work

I’m reading a biography on Jim Henson. He loved his work and described how work is a crucial part of our lives. Accomplishing something is a more fulfilling feeling than the money you earn for doing it.  Of course, most of us wouldn’t work at our jobs without being paid. However, if you look at the reasons most people leave their jobs, money typically isn’t it. Poor relationship with your boss and coworkers is usually at the top of the list. I believe that finding meaning (or lackthereof) in your work is crucial to productivity and happiness in the workplace.

One person recently said to me, “It’s enterprise software. It’s supposed to be boring and have no meaning.” I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

My profession is designing business software. I find tremendous meaning in this work. Here is a little taste of why.

Business users are human beings
Shocking, I know. The users are human beings with families and personal stories. They enjoy fun things and hate boring things. They have fears and aspirations. Now here is the kicker: they spend more time at work than at home. (Not including sleeping)

They spend alot of time in your software. Why are you contributing to their boredom and depression? You have a chance to lighten up their lives. They are desperate for it. Computers suck. They fail to work properly most of the time. They are slow and lack any real memory of the person who uses them. They are far, far away from the science fiction assistant computers should be.

When you design software with lightness and enjoyment baked into the productivity, you are lightening these people’s lives. You are making people happier. I find tremendous meaning in that.

Productivity software helps the economy and careers
Automation doesn’t eliminate jobs. It’s rare that I hear someone is fired because fewer people can do the job of more. Usually, the result of automation is that the people are expected to accomplish more ambitious initiatives because the tool helps them. This in turn helps the company succeed. When companies succeed, they purchase more stuff and fund other companies growth. Also, when someone uses an automation tool, the expertise in the tool becomes a hard skill.

Example: Yahoo used to require that you call them for every ad placement. Call them on the telephone. Can you believe it? Google made it a self-service system (AdWords) which drastically increased the amount of people advertising. Net result was many more jobs at many more companies. Expertise in Google Adwords is a valued skill and helps many people’s careers.

There are other reasons, but these two are very important to me. You may have more meaning in your work than you realize. Find that meaning for yourself and your employees and all of your dreams will come true. Well, maybe not, but you and your people will be happier.





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