Three Signs of a Miserable Job: Irrelevance

In an earlier post, I introduced the concept of Anonymity as it relates to job misery. This time around, I would like to focus on Irrelevance. Patrick Lencioni has the following to say about irrelevance:

“Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss.”

Think about it. How would you feel about your job if what you did had absolutely no measurable impact on anyone? What if the thing you poured your heart into mattered to no one? That would be absolutely horrible. The good news is that your job does matter to people. If you are an administrative assistant, doing good work has a positive impact on your boss. If you are a leader, then everything you say and do matters to the people who choose to work for you. If you are a programmer, your quality development matters to your co-workers, boss, customers, technical support engineers….

You get the picture. So, how can you overcome feelings of irrelevance in the workplace? If you are a leader, it’s pretty easy: let your people know that what they do matters to you — that if they do a good job, it makes your life better. Acknowledging that your people draw satisfaction from doing things that make your day isn’t egotistical. It is honest. More importantly, though, is helping your people understand how their work impacts others (customers, co-workers, etc.). As a leader, it is your responsibility to help your people grow and feel fulfillment in their jobs. They will do better work if they feel accountable to someone other than themselves.

If you’re not a leader, then finding relevance where you feel there is none might be a bit tougher. I encourage you to have an open, honest discussion with your boss about your feelings. Have them help you identify to whom the work you do really matters. You also need to do some soul searching. Think long and hard about who you impact on a daily basis. Make it tangible. If you have customer interaction on a daily basis, clearly, that is a marker of relevance. If you don’t have direct customer interaction but, say, develop a product that ships to customers, think harder. You can’t derive relevance from an abstract. You need something tangible to see that your work matters. Think about who’s life would be made more difficult if you didn’t do an excellent job. Who’s day is harder if you don’t show up for work? These are the people to whom you matter.

Remember, there are people that care about the work you do. If you’re a leader, acknowledge those people and help those around you see the relevance in their jobs. If you’re not a leader, figure this out quickly, and you’ll soon be leading others.

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