investigating our desire for Meaningful Work

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Every generation wants meaningful work.

This was the finding from a short study cited in the Harvard Business Review that sought to understand what millennials (and other generations) are seeking from their work.

Here are a few of those responses:

  • Traditionalists (born between 1922-1945): “I can’t even imagine going to a job that…I didn’t think had value.”
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964): “If I didn’t get personal fulfillment and feel like I was doing something good, it would be miserable to put that much time and effort into something.”
  • Generation X (born between 1965-1983): “If your job is without meaning, what would get you out of bed?”
  • Millennials (born between 1984-2002): “I would rather make nothing and love going to work every day than make a ton of money and hate going to work every day.”
One of the most striking findings was that every generation perceived that the other generations are only in it for the money, don’t work as hard, and do not care about meaning.

This funneled into a deeper study that uncovered while most generations agree on the inherent need and desire for meaningful work, negative stereotypes are the leading device for division amongst cross-generational work.

One of the most striking findings was that every generation perceived that the other generations are only in it for the money, don’t work as hard, and do not care about meaning. If each generation thinks this way, it’s not surprising that they treat each other differently than if they believe they are all striving for intrinsic meaning in their jobs. Stereotypes like these likely cause conflict among generational cohorts, which may affect performance, commitment, and job satisfaction.

It’s clear every generation wants purpose out of their work, yet somehow, we don't see that in one another.

How do you experience generational differences in your day-to-day vocation?

We will dive deeper into this question and many more generational differences in our work at our citywide forum, “The Gen Divide: Bridging Age Gaps at Work” on November 9 from 5:30-8 p.m. at Houston Station in Nashville, Tennessee. Reserve your spot today.


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