The Great Resignation or the Great Rethink?

A friend of mine – I call him Jim – applied for a C-level job at his company, a consumer goods manufacturer. I’ve known him for years and he always seemed happy and fulfilled in his career. So imagine my surprise when I received this two-word text message from him not too long ago: “I’ve resigned.”

I texted him back and asked if everything was ok. I expected him to point to a falling out with another leader or a business decision gone wrong. Instead, he said, “I’m becoming the kind of person I don’t want to be.”

We spoke on the phone and he explained that a recent decision by executives at this company gave him pause. They had acted to gain economic gain at the expense of customers, suppliers and the environment and seemed unfazed by their decisions, viewing them as ‘slam dunks’.

The experience had made him realize that he didn’t really believe in his company or mission. While earlier he might have quelled his growing doubts, the combination of personal health anxiety, the recent death of his father, friction at home, and the ongoing isolation and introspection resulting from the pandemic had prompted him to become more introspective. “Our products are not healthy,” he told me. “I wouldn’t want my kids to eat that junk.” The lure of a big paycheck and working for a respected and very profitable company had waned. His only thought was, “Why should I work for this company?”

Many of us ask ourselves these questions these days. Unsettled by the pandemic, we look at our jobs with new eyes. Some give up what is called the “Great Resignation.” But for many it is more of a major rethink. we do Yes, really like our employers Culture? Do we feel we are being treated fairly and do we have the opportunities for advancement that we want? Deepest, does our work feel as meaningful as we would like it to?


For those who answered no to any of these questions and are looking for more focused work, my research can help. I’ve dug deep into dozens of organizations and interviewed more than 200 leaders to understand how they deliver meaning to their employees and other stakeholders in extraordinary ways. My main goal was to uncover best practices for what I call “deep purpose” organizations, but I also discovered some strategies individuals can use to find more meaning in their careers and lives. studies show that this can lead to greater fulfillment and even longer life, so why not give it a try?

So what should you do?

First, recognize yourself. Almost all of the executives and employees at deep-purpose companies I’ve met had a burning ambition—an intention they pursued with an almost existential passion. They knew what they were put to do on this planet, and that clarity drove them, informed the choices they made, and inspired others to embrace their own goals.

And this isn’t just a C-level pursuit. When service company KPMG launched its 10,000 story challenge program and asked employees to create posters that highlight the purpose of their work, the entries were inspirational. One worker who helps banks fight money laundering wrote, “I fight terrorism.” Another who helped smallholder farmers secure financing used the phrase, “I help farms grow.”

What is your personal goal? Take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reflect on what is important to you and what you want to achieve. What is Your ultimate reason for being? With your time on this planet limited, what do you really hope to accomplish?

Second, Check if you really need meaning at work. We seek meaning and fulfillment in different professional and personal contexts. For example, someone who defines their personal purpose as “helping others learn and grow” might do so outside of work in their role as a parent, mentor, or coach (life purpose). They can pursue it indirectly by working in a non-educational role for a learning-oriented company (organizational purpose) or in a non-teaching yet educational role (career purpose) or directly as a teacher or professor.

If you fulfill your purpose in life outside of work, you may be able to tolerate a job, career, or employer that has little purpose but offers other benefits. In other words, it’s okay to have a day job. However, it is becoming clear that fewer people are willing to take this path and more of us are looking for coherence in different facets of our lives.

Third, if you find that you need or want a purpose at work, To attempt “job crafting.” Shape your role to be more purposeful by customizing the tasks you take on, which colleagues, clients or other stakeholders you interact with, and your own mental framework for what you do. Delegate work that doesn’t feel as meaningful to you but could, to others, raise hands for new projects related to your goals, and reach out to like-minded and nurturing teammates.

Fourthrate your boss. Do they help you make that happen by allowing you to express your individuality and giving you work that feels important to you? A notable example is Pete Carroll, coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Though many professional football coaches take a strict drill sergeant approach, Carroll focuses on forging deep, personal relationships with his players so he can highlight their individual philosophies and reasons for being.

From Carroll’s perspective, this is the path by which individuals reach their highest potential and connect to team purpose. “When someone feels like you recognize who they are and what they’re about,” he says, “you’ve made the connection to empower them with collective purpose.”

These bosses are out there – you just have to look for them.

Fifth, Take a closer look at your employer. As my research has revealed, some companies not only succeed in instituting strong organizational goals, but in helping their employees connect to them in their own way.

For example, Boston-based women’s tech company Ovia Health has made “Be yourself, be honest, be kind” one of its core values ​​and is brought to life in a variety of ways: Online forums where employees can discuss personal hobbies Emphasis on diversity and inclusion throughout the organization and an approach to decision-making that actively incorporates employee opinions.

If your business isn’t helping you achieve your personal goal, you might want to look out for companies that are. At Microsoft, the procedure is similar. As Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan told me, “You’re not going to work fully for Microsoft until you get Microsoft working for you.”

If your organization doesn’t help you identify your personal purpose, perhaps you should go to one that does. Sometimes a change of scenery works wonders. It did for Jim. A year after quitting his old job, he took a new job at a company that aligns with sustainability and responsible business practices that better suits his own personal purpose. He earns much less than before but says he is energetic and proud of his work. “I feel much more complete,” he says. Contrary to some pundits who have described the big resignation as the actual upgrade where people just want to get paid more, in this case it was more of a big rethink.

As I’ve learned from talking to people in all the companies I’ve studied is possible to find deep meaning at work. But also realize that there are no shortcuts. You need to step back and think carefully about yourself and your situation and do what it takes to feel fulfilled and fulfilled.

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