Why You Feel A Lack Of Meaning At Work: 8 Main Reasons

Meaning At Work

Are you feeling a lack of motivation and commitment to do your job effectively? If you are unsatisfied with your work or unable to find meaning at work, refer to the causes behind the crisis of meaning in the workplace.

We often separate our work lives from our personal lives but, in reality, both are intertwined. Our work lives take our time and energy and often dictate where we live, how much we travel, and how much money we have. Frequently, we bring the conflict we have experienced at work home into our personal lives, and vice versa.

When we consider the amount of time we spend “at work” (both paid and unpaid such as volunteering), it should not be surprising that the search for meaning at work is—or at least should be—an important concern. Whether we run a company, drive a bus, clean a hotel room, or help the sick and homeless, our work is a reflection of the presence or absence of meaning in our lives. 

I believe that there is a crisis of meaning at work. I’ve encountered many people who say they feel something is missing: they are stressed at work, unsure how they fit with the group’s or organization’s overall purpose, irritated by their co-workers’ lack of empathy and trust, and, overall, feel disconnected and not fully engaged. The root causes of this lack of meaning at work are varied. 

Here are a few insights from our research, interviews, and experience at the Global Meaning Institute: 

1. People may not know what they want in life

So they just put in time at their current jobs, taking the paycheck but not caring about the work, co-workers, or the organization.

2. They may be suffering

From exhaustion, dealing with issues in their personal lives, such as divorce, the excessive demands of childcare or caring for elders, or various health issues, leaving them with little energy to devote to and engage with their work. It leads to a crisis of meaning at work.

3. Younger workers face their own lack of meaning at work

Often exacerbated by the gap between their expectations and the reality they experience. They often suffer difficulties transitioning from school into the workplace and are overwhelmed by the demands that are placed on them. Working straight for eight hours is difficult for some who have limited attention spans given their upbringings in high stimuli, fast-paced environments. 

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4. Lack of flexible work arrangements

The youth of today are attracted to more flexible work arrangements that provide the freedom to complete the work in the way they find most appealing. Some shun the traditional hierarchy found in many organizations. 

They don’t want to work under the “command and control” rules that they feel are stifling and result in their loss of individualism. Younger workers have also complained to us that they want more access to their leaders and are disappointed when their leaders don’t ask for or listen to their ideas. his results in a lack of meaning at work.

5. Lack of respect

Older workers have complained to us that they resent the lack of respect they sense from others if they are not tech-savvy. They feel they don’t belong in the youth-oriented workplaces and miss the stability of the “way we used to do it around here.” Such a lack of respect leads to a crisis of meaning at work.

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Why You Feel A Lack Of Meaning At Work: 8 Main Reasons
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Elaine Dundon

Elaine Dundon is leading the Meaning Movement, having founded the Global Meaning Institute and the unique study and practice called MEANINGology®. As a Philosopher of Meaning and author of 3 bestselling books on Meaning and Innovation, Elaine is dedicated to helping people discover new meaning in their lives and work, and at the systems, level to connect to the deeper meaning in organizations, communities, and societies. Elaine Dundon’s research and experience are focused on Meaning (blending psychology, applied metaphysics, and existential philosophy). Her research and work have provided insights into how people, organizations, and communities can reach their full potential through meaning. She is the author of 3 best-selling books on Meaning and Innovation, available in 20+ languages: Prisoners of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl’s Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life & Work (Self Help Book of the Year), The OPA! Way: Finding Joy & Meaning in Everyday Life & Work (8 Literary Awards), and The Seeds of Innovation (named a Top Ten Business Book of the Year by The Globe & Mail).View Author posts