From Desk Jockey to Life Saver: The Power Of Meaningful Work

Christi Hegstad April 23rd, 2013

Last year, I held a Passion, Power, & Purpose at Work workshop with an organization known for lower morale. When I asked the HR manager about desired outcomes – what she’d like participants to walk away with – she paused before responding.

“It seems like everyone is just punching a clock,” she shared. “Regulations keep changing, leadership keeps shifting, and we’re all just floating along.

“If people could leave this session feeling even a slight sense of passion or purpose about their work, I’d consider it a success.”

She followed up with a bit of a tired laugh and said, “But, good luck with that.”

I definitely had my work cut out for me. But meaningful work is what we stand for, and I’ve seen the benefits enough to know that helping people connect with how their work matters makes a HUGE difference – in morale, productivity, engagement, revenue, even overall life satisfaction. It’s worth it.

While our training day was filled with stories, one in particular stands out. My hope is that by sharing it, you can begin to see the purpose in your own work and connect with something greater than your desk, department, or even organization.

“I’m a desk jockey,” stated a participant (we’ll call him Jim) at the beginning of the session. “I sit at a computer all day, deal with unhappy customers (because the happy ones never call in to say so!), and push papers. Not much purpose in that.”

Heads nodded in agreement; a sense of disengagement definitely pervaded the room. 

So, in true coaching form, I began to ask questions. A lot of them. Some of which you can ask yourself:

Who benefits from what you do?

Think “ripple effect” here. Your department and organization of course benefit, but how about beyond that? How does your family benefit from what you do? How about your customers? Your customers’ families? Your community? State? World? How about you, personally? Force yourself to answer in all of those realms, seeking feedback from others if you get stuck. 

How does your work make a positive difference?

Consider the aforementioned realms when answering this question, too. If you struggle to answer, this is the perfect place to begin your research. It’s crucial for you to connect with a greater sense of purpose in order to find the meaning within your daily tasks. 

I once had a stay-at-home mom coaching client who moved her mindset from “cooking = drudgery” to “cooking = helping my family – who I am so blessed to have in my life – stay healthy, nourished, and happy.” Her tasks didn’t change, but her approach and sense of fulfillment certainly did. 

What would happen if you didn’t do your work?

Maybe for a day or two business would operate as usual, but think beyond that. What if the roles and responsibilities you serve were completely ignored? You are not just a “cog in the wheel,” you are part of the body of your organization. Each of the different parts – including yours – is required for the body to function.

Jim, our paper-pushing friend, started the session frustrated with how little his work made a difference, describing himself as a desk jockey doing work a trained monkey could do. But moving through these questions and our various exercises, his transformation was visible to all of us in the room. 

He came to realize that his organization, in the safety inspection industry, helps keep people safe. If he didn’t do his job, the agents in the field wouldn’t get paid and wouldn’t do their jobs. Without safety inspectors ensuring our food quality, people around the country and globe would get sick – or worse.

Jim ended the session saying, “My job saves lives!” 

YOUR WORK MATTERS. In some way, you are helping people live higher quality lives, or contributing to a sense of security, or building confidence, or relieving stress by handling tasks that would drive others batty (shout-out to my CPA!). 

Know this – and truly connect with this – to heighten your fulfillment and success.

The next steps, then, revolve around identifying your unique passions, strengths, and purpose, and creating ways for these (and you) to flourish in the workplace, which is at the heart of my coaching practice. But start with those questions above and find that point of connection. 

Once you discover that your work is meaningful – that you can and do make a difference through your work – you’ll unlock the inspiration to carry it through with purpose, intention, and joy.

What other questions might you ask yourself to connect more fully with your work? Share your thoughts below or via Twitter or Facebook!

Dr. Christi Hegstad helps you successfully do what you love! As President of MAP Professional Development Inc., she coaches business owners and leaders to get unstuck and reach Bold Goals with clarity, confidence, and meaningful action. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com and follow Dr. Christi on Facebook and Twitter

Dr. Christi Hegstad helps you successfully do what you love! As a certified business and career coach, she helps leaders get unstuck and reach high-level goals with clarity, confidence, and meaningful action. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com and follow Dr. Christi on Facebook and Twitter.