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Aug 15, 2007

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Higher Purpose and Job Satisfaction

Higher Purpose and Job Satisfaction

A purpose is a mission statement. An organization invariably has
one, which it expects every employee to live up to. Sure, the
employee will do what he is told to do, but he is motivated to
work for a different reason. He works because he has to support
a family; he has to work in order to survive. Although the
employee is committed to the work, there is no alignment between
the employee's mission statement and that of the organization's.
Without this critical alignment, there is little motivation for the
employee to do more than he should, or to help the organization
achieve its greater goals.


The Donkey Carrying Salt

Higher Purpose and Job Satisfaction
(Illus by Milo Winter)

A Merchant, driving his Donkey homeward from the seashore
with a heavy load of salt, came to a river crossed by a shallow
ford. They had crossed this river many times before without
accident, but this time the Donkey slipped and fell when halfway
over. And when the Merchant at last got him to his feet, much
of the salt had melted away. Delighted to find how much lighter
his burden had become, the Donkey finished the journey very

Next day the Merchant went for another load of salt. On the way
home the Donkey, remembering what had happened at the ford,
purposely let himself fall into the water, and again got rid of
most of his burden.

The angry Merchant immediately turned about and drove the
Donkey back to the seashore, where he loaded him with two great
baskets of sponges. At the ford the Donkey again tumbled over;
but when he had scrambled to his feet, it was a very disconsolate
Donkey that dragged himself homeward under a load ten times
heavier than before.


The same measures will not suit all circumstances.
Counter old tricks with new ones.

Quotable Quotes:

“Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind
as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may
fix its intellectual eye.” ... Mary Shelley

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself,
and know that everything in this life has a purpose.”
... Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes
true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification
but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” ... Helen Keller

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some
extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their
bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your
consciousness expands in every direction, and you find
yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant
forces, faculties and talents become alive, and your
discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you
ever dreamed yourself to be.” ... Patanjali

“The secret of success is constancy to purpose.”

... Benjamin Disraeli

“Wise men write many books, in words too hard to
understand. But this, the purpose of our lives, the end
of all our struggle, is beyond all human wisdom.”
... Alan Paton

[browse collection of quotes and quotations]

Lessons in life:

Like the donkey, most of us dread our jobs, seeing it as mundane,
meaningless and without a purpose. To the donkey, the salt is a
burden. To the merchant, however, the salt could have given his
family sufficient income to live for a year.

One good illustration of how a higher purpose affects our
motivational level surprisingly came from this pair of kids we
were with. The elder boy, age 4, was told to pick up some toys
strewn on the floor. He merrily obliged, believing that he was
helping his parents keep the house in order. A moment later,
the younger brother, age 2, came along and emptied the
container of toys onto the floor. This time, the elder kid saw it
and despite coaxing by the parents, refused to pick up the toys.
Perhaps, the boy understood that there was no real purpose
behind what he did if his brother continued to empty the
container every time the toys were put back.

Years back, we embarked on a campaign to cut waste, go green,
and save the environment. Our staff were pretty excited about
it as they saw a good purpose in what they were doing. Part of
the commitment involved using recycled instead of fresh A4
paper to print internal memorandums and circulars. The staff
were so conscious in keeping every piece of recyclable paper
that soon, the store was brimming with more recyclable paper
than new paper. Our administrative manager gave instructions
to his assistant to dispose some of the used paper. While that
seemed to be a logical thing to do, what the assistant did was
shred boxes of the recyclable paper and dump them into the
thrash. Word got round and it was the hottest topic in office
within hours of the incident. The campaign died a natural death.
Staff were no longer interested in keeping the used paper since
it was meaningless to go through that trouble only to see the
paper thrown away thereafter. The purpose of the campaign
was lost.

The challenge of an executive or manager is helping the staff
find a higher purpose in their work. Let the staff see the bigger
picture behind the job and the greater good that the work can
achieve. If your company is in the business of manufacturing
environmentally friendly products, announce any findings of
the benefits that your products have achieved. The facts, not
the sales pitch. A staff will be thinking how his little
contribution towards saving Gaia can ensure the survivability
of his children and grandchildren and the people around the

If the company deals in pharmaceutical products, we are
talking about lives saved. The higher purpose in jobs in such
industries, as in professional jobs like doctors and nurses, is
being able to save a dying person, or relieve the suffering of
an ailing patient, who could very well be the staff's next of kin.

What do companies manufacturing security cameras, seat
belts, fire extinguishers and circuit breakers have in common?
Their products keep us safe and secure. The people who work
towards bringing these into our lives ought to be revered as
our protectors. Let the staff feel that way about themselves
and appreciate the importance of their job in relation to other
people's safety.

An office cleaner might see the sweeping, mopping, cleaning
duties as a chore. One day, a pregnant lady stepped on a
slippery patch, rolled down the stairs, and lost her baby.
Suddenly, the job was no longer a matter of cleanliness, but
one that could lead to significant harm if not done well.

A telephone operator thought she had a thankless job on hand.
That was until she took a call from a prospective customer
and handled the call so professionally that the customer
was happy to let the company have a multi-million dollar
contract. The contract translated into immense profits for
the company, but more importantly, increased salary and
bonus payouts for everyone.

A hotel concierge found a briefcase of old books left over
by a hotel guest. They were not limited editions, and looked
rather worthless. Nevertheless, he arranged for the
briefcase to be couriered to the guest, who was already
back in his hometown. It turned out that those books were
the only memories the guest had of his late father and to him,
they were priceless.

A worker in a canned food factory was merely one of the
hundred hourly-rated workers, taking charge of a tiny
segment of the canning process. Instructions to adhere to
health guidelines like wearing gloves and face masks had
fallen on deaf ears. This changed when reports on people
falling ill as a result of unhygienically prepared food in
China surfaced. This worker realized that how she worked
had a direct influence on other people's health.

An insurance company dispatch clerk was also tasked to
affix the postage stamps and send out the company's letters.
Being disinterested in what he termed as a mindless job, he
neglected to send out one letter. It was a payout addressed
to a widow, who desperately needed financial assistance to
pay her own medical expenses after her husband's passing.
Months later, the dispatch found the letter among his stack
of magazines. By then, the widow, not being able to afford
medical care, had succumbed to her illness.

All these are stories you can tell. They remind the staff of the
need to look for a higher purpose in their actions beyond the
call of duties or instructions from their boss. There must be
something worthwhile pursuing, something which will
motivate and inspire them, give them satisfaction and
happiness, meaning and direction in life. With the higher
purpose as a motivating factor, any work can be rewarding
and enjoyable.

Related Articles:

Incentives give the extra push to succeed
Autocrats, dictators, and dominant bosses
Learn the Art of Saying NO
Dreams, Goals, and Motivation
Cope with Work Stress
Workaholics with No Balanced Life

Books worth reading:

A new motivational book from Marcus Buckingham, Go
Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve
Outstanding Performance is a practical book putting you
through a six-week course to unveil the hidden strengths in
you. At the end of the program, you should see yourself
having more control over your life and tackling issues with
a different mindset.

More fables for you? Here's one, The Three Signs of a
Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees)
by Patrick M. Lencioni, who uses a fable of a retired CEO to
illustrate the 3 causes of job dissatisfaction among employees
– anonymity, immeasurability and irrelevance.

Just for those who look at this issue on higher purpose from a
spiritual angle, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A
Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams (based on
Creating Affluence) by Deepak Chopra outlines his laws of
karma and dharma and lets readers see how these principles
can be used to define the life purpose that we are all seeking.

© Business Fables and Management Lessons

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