We live in interesting times. Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have created uncertainty and stress, workplace stress is not new.
For years, experts have been discussing, analysing, and writing about workplace stress, its causes and potential solutions. Indeed, worker’s compensation claims have risen steadily over the past 25 years.
Does this imply that the quest for corporate success has required the abuse of people and their rights? Or could it imply that human beings in wealthy societies are losing their resilience and becoming a little precious?
I hear both arguments time and again. Some say bosses and employers re to blame. Others assert that workers have become too sensitive and reactive. However, I feel there are times we should step back, take in a broader perspective, and attempt to view a much bigger picture.
Along with the expansion of economies, rising lifestyles and greater commitment to work and leisure, there has been a drastic reduction in any form of religious practice and spiritual instruction.
When we look back over time, we realise that human beings have worked long hours in challenging jobs since the start of the industrial revolution. And whilst important advances have been made in shortening work weeks and the restoration of leisure time, still we see people regularly working 60 plus hours per week.
Some are inspired by their work and struggle to stop. They love what they do. Others may be motivated by fear, worried that if they do not keep working, they will be replaced.
Along the way, corporate leaders try to find a balance where employees can deliver their role, but not burn out. Many good leaders want their people to produce good results and maintain a balanced life at the same time. The cost of replacing people can be crippling.
It seems that the basic employee contract has become transactional. You do this work, complete at least this many hours, and I will pay you this amount of compensation. But it can be so much more than that.
Perhaps we should go back to our mission. What is our organisation doing? What is the value we bring to the world? I asked a management team of a paint company the question. They replied, “We make great paint!” I replied that such an answer could put me to sleep. So, we explored it further.
Eventually we arrived at a realisation that their company was involved in providing a solution people could use to create moods in their homes, relaxing atmospheres where parents could relax, and children could feel secure or stimulating spaces where parents and children could play or talk together.
Within moments the feel of the room changed. Within moments this room full of people was on an entirely different mission. They got to understand how their work touched lives for the better and improved the welfare of children.
In that moment, we found a way to have that company, a paint manufacturing company, in service to humanity. Manufacturing, marketing, and selling paint had become a noble mission.
When human beings discover how their efforts impact humanity, they naturally begin to take much greater care of the entire project. This includes caring for each other.
When the goal is profit, the behaviour can become competitive and savage. When the goal is to deliver value, behaviours are driven by care and responsibility. Finding worthwhile purpose was a significant factor in Maslowe’s hierarchy of human needs.
From here you can see the link between a noble mission and job satisfaction. I shared at a conference online today. There are no industrial disputes on disaster recovery efforts. Everyone is working together, side by side, to save lives, ease suffering and restore order.
And when we do good work, we feel good about who we are. We like ourselves and our lives. We feel a sense of personal validity. Happiness is a natural outcome.
So, I ask you. What is your organisations mission? It will not be the thing you do. It will be the brilliant outcome of the thing you do. When you land what it is, bring your people in and connect them to it. Make it part of your daily vernacular. Make it the core of your business operations.
When you arrive at this place, people will begin to love your company. They will trust in your intention to add value. Your company will have a sound future. And that will be a very good thing for humanity.