Category Archives: Meaningful Work

Leadership, Psychological Well-Being, and Meaningful Work

We hear often about leadership having an impact on employees. Many blogs and articles online talk about it without properly citing data to back it up. Well, I located a research-based article that offered support for the positive impact of leadership on employee well-being. Because this blog covers employee well-being, meaningful work, and leadership, I felt this topic was captured well in this research article by Arnold, Turner, Barling, Kelloway, & McKee (2007).

The researchers conducted two studies, one involving employees of a long-term care facility and the other study involving funeral directors and dental hygienists.

In Study #1, the researchers sent surveys to 319 employees of a long-term care facility in a midsized Canadian city measuring transformational leadership, meaningful work, and psychological well-being.

Here’s how the researchers defined the terms in Study #1:

Transformational leadership is seen as leadership that communicates a vision, develops staff, provides support, empowers staff, is innovative, leads by example, and is charismatic.

Meaningful work

From Workplace Spirituality scale: included items such as “I see a connection between my work and the larger social good of my community” and “The work I do is connected to what I think is important in my life.”

Psychological well-being

From Positive Affective Well-Being scale: looks at how the employee felt in the last 6 months (e.g., motivated, cheerful, enthusiastic, lively, joyful, and energetic).

In Study #2, the researchers sent surveys to 95 funeral directors and 51 dental hygienists.

This time, the researchers defined the terms in this manner:

Transformational leadership

From the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire: Four dimensions of transformational leadership—idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.

Meaningful work

“The work I do in this job is fulfilling,” “The work I do in this job is rewarding,” “I do not achieve important outcomes from the work I do in this job”, and “I am able to achieve important outcomes from the work I do in this job.”

Psychological well-being

From General Health Questionnaire: “Been able to concentrate on whatever you are doing?” and “Been able to enjoy your day to day activities?”

Although not earth-shattering, results of the studies offered data to support often hearsay or anecdotal evidence about the relationship and/or positive impact of transformational leadership on well-being.

Based on results of the two studies, the researchers concluded that “transformational leadership of supervisors exerted a positive influence on the psychological well-being of workers” (Arnold et al., 2007, p. 200). Believing and viewing the work as meaningful seems to play a role in explaining this positive relationship.

Sound Bite: “[L]eaders can transform followers’ beliefs to enhance well-being” (Arnold et al., 2007, p. 202).

Reference

Arnold, K., Turner, N., Barling, J., Kelloway, E., & McKee, M. (2007). Transformational leadership and psychological well-being: The mediating role of meaningful work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(3), 193-203.

What is Your Life’s Work?

[NOTE: This post was updated February 2018]

In his book, What is Your Life’s Work? Bill Jensen asks people to write a letter to a loved one about the meaning and importance of work. Specifically, he wanted them to think about this question:

“What is the single most important insight about work that you want to pass on to your kids? Or to anyone you truly care about?”

In the course of writing these letters, people experienced something remarkable — clarity about what “it” is that’s most important to them and the power of following their dreams.

“There are only 1440 minutes in every day. No do-overs. Time stolen from you at work means less time for whatever really matters to you…We must all be respectful of how work uses the precious time in people’s lives — as a guiding principle in whatever [we] do every day” (Jensen, 2005, p.9).

“I’m a workaholic. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t striving for full-throttle success. As it turns out, I failed in one critical area. I had turned my back on life.” (A Letter Writer quoted in Jensen’s book)

According to over 40 Gallup studies, about 75% of workers are disengaged from their jobs. And based on a recent U.S. Job Retention Survey, 75% of all employees are now searching for new employment opportunities. Jensen also found, in a New American Dream Survey, that more than four out of every five of us (83%) wish we had more of what really matters in life (Jensen, 2005, p.5).

In the past 20 years, Jensen has interviewed and surveyed over 400,000 people in more than 1,000 companies. What he found was that “[m]ost of us already know what really matters. We just let all the daily excuses and conflicting priorities cloud our judgment…Yet the people who are truly focused on what matters rarely have this problem. They know how to listen to themselves – how to quiet all the outside noise long enough to hear their own heartbeat and their own wisdom” (Jensen, 2005, p.16).

Jensen (2005) recommends several things:

  • Face what you fear
  • Get grounded, there are others like you
  • Let go, nobody’s watching
  • Suspend judgment, others’ “aha” moments can reveal a lot
  • Find your passion, write it down
  • Laugh at your own excuses
  • Rewrite the script, because you can

“[T]he most important quality in a candidate is passion for what he does and who he is. This passion will drive people to succeed even when obstacles occur in the workplace…For my money, give me someone with passion. We can teach him the rest.” (Mike Grabowski, quoted in What is Your Life’s Work?)

Wishing you good work life, health, and well-being.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor

Reference

Jensen, B. (2005). What is Your Life’s Work?: Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters…and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do. New York, NY: HarperCollins.