Series on Meaningfulness at Work – Givers vs Takers

There are three primary interaction styles at work as per Grant’s book Give and Take. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return. Not surprisingly, the majority tend to have matching styles at work. However, this proportion changes if you scan the top of the corporate food chain. It is neither takers nor matchers that make it into this coveted echelon. It is the givers.

It seems these workplace givers have discovered how to mastermind successful careers and find meaningfulness in the process–to proverbially have their cake and eat it too. What secrets do they hold? What they don’t do is drop everything to help others. Below are three practical and deceptively simple strategies they undertake to propel their meaning-laden success.

BECOME A MASTER CRAFTER: GIVE MORE OF YOUR TALENT – Job Crafting is a pioneering method created by Amy Wrzesniewski, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Management; Jane Dutton, a professor at University of Michigan; and Justin Berg, a current doctoral student at Wharton. The tool empowers you to rethink your role. In the end, you emerge with greater clarity on how to retro-fit your job to your unique passions, values, and strengths. The most successful and fulfilled at work are relentless job crafters. They are able to use the raw material afforded in their work to mold more meaning. In doing so, they find ways to give their best selves in service of what others need–a critical meaning-making ingredient.

IGNORE THE WHAT AND HEED THE WHY – Consider one computer manufacturer’s mission statement: “To be the most successful computer company in the world.” That’s great. But it displays a major meaning trap that many of us fall prey to–it’s all about us. What if the mission statement read: “To be the most successful computer company for the world”? Meaning comes when we realize the impact of our work on others. In fact, what distinguishes the most successful givers–versus those who burnout–is not what or how much they give. It is that they know the difference they make on others. People aren’t inspired solely by what they do. People are lit up when they know why what they do matters.

In the relentless grind of our daily work we often forget the positive and enduring impact our work has on others. A study of hospital janitors who cleaned bed pans and mopped up vomit–perhaps the lowest-ranking job in a hospital–saw themselves as part of a team whose goal was to heal people, which suggests that meaning isn’t about the job; rather, it’s about how you view your job. To paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, “Work itself is but what you deem of it.”

REMEMBER THAT OTHER PEOPLE MATTER – Research findings that the most engaged workers report having a best friend at work have become a well-cited statistic for good reason. If you look at experiences of those who report higher meaning at work, it is not what people are doing–but rather who they are with. This is consistent with a set of findings on what distinguishes our best days: days whereby we feel enlivened and truly thriving. These days include at least six hours of social time. In fact, even three hours of social time reduces the chances of having a bad day by 10%. Meaning is made in moments, and what matters most is the people we create those moments with.

Organizational consultant David Cooperrider subscribes to the notion that “what we appreciate, appreciates.” If we begin to appreciate the meaning that infiltrates our daily workplaces, then we will grow our capacity to seek it, and seize it. This, in turn, will increase the value of meaningfulness in our work and ensure that it gains the esteemed position it so desperately deserves: a position alongside happiness.

Source—Jessica Amortegui,