In his book “Lost Connections” Johann Hari states that one of the reasons for heightened anxiety is because humans lack meaningful work. Johann defines states that one key symptom of depression is ‘derealization.’ This is the work experience where an employee feels that their work makes no difference or it is unreal. How can leaders influence this for the better?
Meaningful work consists of three critical elements and it addresses derealization:
1.) Ability To Control – Employees who are unable to make choices regarding their work load are more likely to find themselves in despair. As a leader, how can you help employees explore choices with their work? It could be as simple as providing a shared resource for the team or dividing up the work equally throughout the day. The more power one feels the more meaningful the work.
2.) Being Recognized – My best bosses were the ones that thanked me and appreciated my work. Recognize the efforts and contribution of your team on a regular basis. Studies show that people need about four positive remarks to every one that is corrective.
3.) Sense of Purpose – Ask employees to clarify ‘why?’ they do what they do? It could be that their ‘why?’ is money or helping others succeed. Keep digging and help them see how their work contributes to the greater good. Instead of just solving problems for your team, ask the team to solve the problems collectively. Many companies are employing a task force model to solve the companies greatest problems. This approach allows employees to contribute to the resolution.
Meaningful work may seem like the unattainable goal for you or your team. It may be that what you can offer right now is a good wage for a job well done. This is the beginning point. Help your employees dream about their ideal job and support them by helping them take their next steps toward their meaningful career.
The derealization impact on organizations is far reaching. Leaders you can influence this more than you may realize.