As part of my financial planning, I had signed up for a Services Canada account to check on my Statement of Contributions for CPP. The government kept careful track of all my working years and, remarkably, I have worked for 38 years now. What kept me happy at work during all of that time?
Years ago, a mentor told me that people need three things to be happy at work.
1. You need to be part of a company that you can believe in. I call this the noble cause of the company. It transcends all of the numbers of business and goes right to the heart of why a company exists. How do we help people? How do we make an impact? This is our signature, and it means everything.
Believing in the mission of a company can be a powerful motivator and it can satisfy our inner longing for purpose and meaning in life.
2. You need to know that you can make a difference in your work. Steve Jobs said that we are here to put a dent in the universe. We are here because we matter. And spending most of our waking hours at a company where we cannot make a difference must be very discouraging and frustrating. I’ve had many different types of jobs over my life. With each job I did, whether it was delivering newspapers as a kid, working in the mines up north during my University years, or building my career, I have always thought about what I can do to make a difference at my place of work, to serve well. I sometimes think we have it confused. That our employer is obligated to serve us well. And there is certainly a need for a company to treat employees well. However, it does begin with your own contribution to your place of work.
3. You need someone that cares about the work that you do. This is often where most companies overlook a basic human need for acceptance and validation. Telling someone that they matter can be a very powerful motivator. Too often, workplaces forget to say something as simple as thank you for making a difference.
I was in my late forties when I had this discussion with a mentor. It made me think about all of the different people that had taken an interest in my life and how they had tried to help me in my journey. It made me think about why I was working and what work really means.