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About 20 years ago one of my colleagues told me that humans are arrogant to demand a meaning in life while other animals do not demand such a thing as a meaning from their lives. Perhaps, he was right. Humans are arrogant, but humans can’t help it because we have been blessed or cursed with the power of self-reflection. Besides, humans’ demand for the meaning of life is precisely the reason why humans made great accomplishments, such as the developments of arts and sciences.

In the past, religions created the meaning of life for humans. So, they did not have to be bothered by a nagging sense of meaninglessness if they had not created their own meanings of life. But these days when religion as the meaning-maker has lost its power, each human has to create his/her meaning. (I’m not arguing here for the religious revival; that would be merely regressive.) However, to create a meaning or purpose of life is not necessarily easy since it probably requires some level of creativity and imagination. Then, how comforting it would be if one could find a meaning from what one does for living, which is a job.

Thus, I found interesting an article titled “I Don’t Have a Job. I Have a Higher Calling” by Rachel Feintzeig in the 2/25/15 issue of The Wall Street Journal. The article itself was rather equivocating as its subtitle “Some employees balk as many firms – from motorcycles to accounting – step up talk about changing world” indicated. On the one hand, the articles enumerated positive elements of employees who connected their jobs to a higher meaning than just getting paychecks. For instance, Ms. Feintzeig wrote: “Those who can connect their work to a higher purpose – whether they are a janitor or a banker – tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, put in longer hours and rack up fewer absences.” (By the way, I find this focus on the employer’s perspective very WSJ.) On the other hand, the article identified a possible problem in the employers touting their companies’ virtues beyond what they do. Ms. Feintzeig wrote, quoting Prof. Wrzesniewski of the Yale School of Management: “But for the two-thirds who view their job as a paycheck or a necessary rung on the corporate ladder, campaigns around meaning can highlight the fact that those workers don’t derive deep meaning from work.” So, the gist of the articles is that the corporations or organizations should be mindful of the fact that some workers work only for the paychecks when declaring their humanistic missions although the workers who agree with the professed meaning or purpose of the corporations/ organizations are more dependable and satisfied workers.

Judging from this article, I would say that corporations will benefit more and decisively by clarifying a higher purpose and mission for their workers. They can tease out the workers who are unable to agree with the meaning by inducing them to find more suitable jobs while retaining more satisfied and dedicated workers. But, the caveat is that those workers who get turned off by the corporation’s “missions” may be finding some hypocrisy in the corporate “missions.” So, the corporations should establish missions/ purposes that they really believe.

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