How relationships can make work more meaningful

community circle

Up till now in this series of posts on how to make work more meaningful, I have focused primarily on making a difference. But meaningful work is a multi-dimension beastie. Today I want to look at another of those dimensions: relationships and community.

Opportunities to experience meaning

To put it in context, let’s take a quick peek back at my post defining meaning. In it, I said:

Meaningful work = Work that matters

And what makes work matter is unique to each individual.

In my last post in this series, I encouraged you to shift your perspective from “what difference does my work make,” to “what difference can I make while I’m at work?”

You can also apply that approach to meaning in general. Stop asking, “what is meaningful about my job” and start asking, “where are the opportunities to experience meaning while I’m at work?”

You’ll find some of those opportunities in relationships and a sense of community.

We humans evolved to be social critters. That means relationships are a vital part of how we thrive. Friendships at work can contribute to a sense of meaning in numerous ways, including:

Connection

At its most basic level, friendships at work offer an individual sense of connection.

It’s not rocket science how this might add meaning. Imagine being in a workplace filled with people whose interactions are superficial and shallow – enough to get the job done, but not bringing our shared humanity into the picture.

Now compare that with a workplace where there are at least some people you relate to on a deeper level. Where you know and care about your co-workers, and they know and care about you. What difference would that make?

If you had to stop and think, let me just fill you in. A lot! As Christine Riordan points out in her Harvard Business Review article, We All Need Friends at Work:

“Research shows that workers are happier in their jobs when they have friendships with co-workers. Employees report that when they have friends at work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.”

Camaraderie

What connection is to the individual, camaraderie is to the group. When there is a sense of camaraderie, there is a sense of belonging (a core human desire). Work is more fun, and people are more likely to like and trust each other, making collaboration and cooperation easier. There can be a shared sense of purpose.

Riordan elaborates on the impact of that camaraderie:

“Camaraderie is more than just having fun, though. It is also about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are in-it together…In short, camaraderie promotes a group loyalty that results in a shared commitment to and discipline toward the work. Camaraderie at work can create “esprit de corps,” which includes mutual respect, sense of identity, and admiration to push for hard work and outcomes.”

All of which lends itself to better work at both the individual and the team level (and as a bonus, you get a double-dose of meaning on that one, since achievement is another of the dimensions that can make work matter to you).

Commitment

A sense of meaning can come from feeling engaged and committed to something. And when people have good relationships at work, they’re more likely to feel more of that sense of commitment, both to their goals and the company’s.

That shows up in the Gallup study referenced above. It also shows up in a study in 2012 by the Society for Human Resource Management, which found that satisfaction with their relationships with co-workers was the number two factor influencing employees’ connection and commitment to the organization.

Support

This is related to the first two, but it’s worth calling out on its own.

Support comes into play both when things are challenging and when it’s time to celebrate a success. Having people who support you makes it easier to weather the challenges without feeling like you have to do it alone. And having people who will celebrate your successes along with you make those successes that much more noteworthy.

And the best part is, support is a two-way street. If someone is having a rough time and you’re there to support them, you get the benefit of feeling like you’re helping someone (remember the question, “What difference can I make while I’m at work?” This is one answer.). And when someone has had a success, you get the benefit of celebrating something positive.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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