The meaning of work

Only 24 more days left to the retirement!

They will propably try to get rid of me next year, then I can make a really good deal!

Eastern is coming soon, then it's only two months until my summer vacation - oh dear, am I counting the days!

The longing for freedom - or at least freedom from work - meets me everywhere I go this week. I have been thinking about my own life during the last years, how work occupied almost all my time and energy. That was quite alright, since my job was meaningful, important, challenging. Paradoxically, it still was a relief to quit.


Now, building my own business, I'm so inspired that I could work around the clock. The meaning with work is crystal clear to me.

That is not the case for everybody.

Karen Schultz, Danish psychologist and consultant, has done research on existential dimensions in working life (the book "When work means meaning", 2005). In the beginning of this millennium she, like many others, noticed a shift in employees' attitude towards work: fewer choose between different companies, more and more choose between work and existential development.

It might sound snobbish and provocative, since not everybody has the possibility to flirt with the thought of refraining from monthly salary.
But think about it; don't you, too, dream of working with those things you know the best, according to a timetable you have an influence on, in co-operation with people you like, for customers who really see that you contribute with something valuable? So that you would have strength and joy for other things in life?

Right, you do reflect over the meaning of work as a part of meaning of your life. And you are not alone.

Schultz's message is that companies that want to compete over the best human resources need to be ready to manage the existential development of their employees. She draws a lot of more and less useful diagrams showing how questions about the meaning of work can be treated, looking both from the viewpoint of the company and of the individual or the teams. How much do you live to work, how much do you work to enable your self-realization in other parts of life? What is the balance in the company between making profit, or fulfilling a mission that, if it's done well, will give profit as a result? What is the value of the staff: is the company mostly focused on working towards the future with valuebased leadership and learning organizations, or is the focus on follow-up, in form of process based and hierarchial control?

All forms are needed, different styles work the best in different phases of life for both companies and individuals.

A workshop on these questions can relieve tensions in the working community. Behind unclearness and conflicts there is often uncertainty of what is really going on. Existential coaching, both individually and in groups, makes the dilemmas that keep people back visible. It opens up for reflection and finding paths forward.

What does your working community need right now?

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