Why do we work?

July 10, 2012

Once upon a time, people worked to subsist. Or, for a few lucky people, to get fat and have lots of women (sorry ladies, I don’t espouse that point of view but that’s how it was back then). But today, in so many places around the world, that is not why people work.┬áIn a large corporation, most of what people do is not about providing for human needs. Arguably, there are entire industries or professions that have nothing to do with human needs. But even within an industry or profession that generally serves one or more human needs, so much of the daily activity of employees is not dedicated to actually satisfying those needs. So much of the daily activity is inward-looking or simply unnecessary from the standpoint of providing for human needs.

I don’t make this point to criticize. I’m making it to highlight why people work. When subsistence is required, we work for subsistence. But when we’ve already achieved subsistence, we work for something else. Partly, we work just to have something to do during the day. Hopefully that something contributes meaning, a sense of identity, a sense of belonging to our lives.

If you know that people are working for those ends, how would you lead them differently?

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