May 3, 2019      Ed Jackson Ed.D.

A 2019 Global Emotions Poll released by Gallup found Americans with very high levels of stress. 55% of Americans report high levels of stress; that’s 4% higher than the saddest country in the world, Chad.

These findings are not surprising when you consider that Gallup research has also found high levels of workplace disengagement. 71% of American workers report being disengaged at work and only 47% report they are satisfied with their jobs.

Workplace leaders have a very powerful tool they can use to impact these high levels of stress and low levels of workplace satisfaction: Meaning, according to researchers and business experts, meaning has been shown to buffer the impact of workplace stress while increasing satisfaction.  

Leadership that makes work meaningful can have a direct impact on workplace satisfaction.  Fortunately there are several steps leaders can take to increase workplace meaning.

  • Leaders who build strong workplace relationships based on caring and concern help to create workplace meaning for their followers. By creating a strong group identity, leaders can help develop workplace meaning. These relationships help to build a culture that protects the group from the impact of stress.
  • Leaders can also help promote workplace meaning by creating autonomy in the workplace. Research shows that workers who are higher in autonomous motivation have more productive work outcomes. By focusing on the follower, the leader is able to empower their followers through respect and understanding. The increased workplace meaning that results will allow followers to experience less workplace stress.
  • Storytelling is another way workplace meaning can be built. Leaders can use storytelling to communicate the importance of the work being done. This builds the sense of purpose that is essential to creating meaning. Storytelling can also be used to engage followers in challenging tasks. Purpose and challenge are essential elements of meaning, and they have been shown to be essential elements of meaning making.

For more on creating workplace meaning look for our soon to be published book: Meaning-Centered Leadership: Why Meaning Matters to Your organization.