Why we are walking towards dissatisfaction on the home straight
Gone are the days when work was just work. A mean of survival. A job. Work is described as an identity-forming characteristic, prophesied as fulfillment. The occupation is to become a vocation. Old Work becomes New Work - stable too agile. Words like these dominate the newsletter and LinkedIn pages of the management and personnel scene.
"Leadership as a source of meaning" or "Purpose as a management task" have become bestsellers in management development programs. Companies are advised, managers are trained. That's all very well! But where are the employees at this point I wonder?
What are we supposed to do here anyway? 24/7 intrinsically motivated? To be fully absorbed in our work? To unfold in our professional life and ideally no longer dream of a work-life balance, but to already live the work-life integration? Here, expectations are piling up which are doomed to failure and which exert enormous pressure on the world of employees.
And that is precisely the reason why we are rushing towards dissatisfaction! Because we all know what happens when expectations are not met.
The first effects of this have long been apparent. The burnout trap snaps shut more and more often. No wonder, we also live in supposedly much more stressful times, in which nothing is as safe as change itself. Influenced by globalisation, digitalisation and ambiguity or whatever other words and phrases we may think of as the cause of our "no time" society. In addition, we are no longer really resilient, work lazy, just a bit too much Generation Y! Or maybe we just failed because of our expectations?
What many people keep ignoring: Just as the workload is closely interwoven with burnout, so is our satisfaction and motivation. And it is well known that this is fed by the simple multiplication of expectation and value. The principle is quite simple. If I do what I do with pleasure and self-determination, no overtime will bring me to my knees. Now one should think that the idea of New Work pays for itself. It does too! However, if we push expectations higher and higher, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to feel appreciation for what we are currently doing. At best, we are moving into a motivational spiral and thus miss the principle of New Work and finding meaning.
So do I want to call for a return to Old Work, to ignore the question of meaning and to give up personal development in professional life? Absolutely not! Nevertheless, I wonder whether we run from one extreme to the other and whether there is not a desirable middle course? How much dissatisfaction is allowed in the job? How much extrinsic motivation or demotivation may we admit to ourselves? When is good, good enough? And above all: How do we support our employees in these questions on the way to finding meaning?
These questions are by no means trivial and easy for individuals to answer. So let's continue to advise companies and train managers to make sense. But let's also focus on the employees. Help them to paint visions, to define personal values, to reflect on themselves and to formulate wishes.
But above all, let's stay realistic and invest a little of our valuable time to enjoy!
Consultant The CONUFACTUR