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Purpse of Work

Updated on July 16, 2015

Purpose of Work

So why do we work? Indeed, the quick response would be to earn an income for obvious reasons. In doing so, how does work enable one to fulfill her/his purpose of life (self-defined and not by any religious doctrine)? How can work create happiness?

How does work fit into one’s purpose of life? While there are several definitions on the purpose of life based on religious and cultural beliefs, a common belief is that we all seek personal happiness, success, fulfilment, and hopefully find gratification in our efforts and accomplishments. For example, The Dalai Lama wrote that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness (Dalai-Lama and Cutler, 1998). In their book, these authors explained that happiness is determined more by the state of one’s mind than by one’s external conditions, circumstances, or events. They further explained how happiness can be achieved through the systematic training of our hearts and minds, through reshaping our attitudes and outlook.

Work and Purpose of Life

The type of work one does is not the issue. At the heart of this thought is how the work relates to one’s broader purpose in life. Do employees view their positions as jobs or is it part of their activities that help to create a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. Wrzesniewski (2003) found that the way people see their work is highly predictive of their own individual thriving, and has positive implications for groups and organizations where they belong. Given one’s personal self-defined purpose of life, the nature of one’s work becomes a central component of fulfilling a person’s purpose of life. The premise is therefore set forth that the stronger the linkage between the work one performs and the congruence to one’s purpose of life, higher performance output can be expected. While many of us accept jobs and quickly become frustrated, it may simply be incongruence between the nature of the responsibility and our personal values, needs, and sources of our pleasure.

Work and Happiness

Does work provide happiness? Could people find happiness at work? How do people define happiness? What are people doing to create the environments that foster happiness at work? These are critical questions that are of pivotal importance to both employers and employees. In today’s society, many will argue that work is the source of their stress, inability to spend adequate time with family, volunteering in community activities, and being unable to further their education. Seligman (2002) teaches that happiness can be cultivated by identifying and using the strengths people already possess. These strengths include kindness, originality, humor, optimism and generosity.

Building a Positive Organizational culture

In recent years, strategy scholars have begun to look beyond industrial economics-based notions of strategy to try to better understand how organizations sustain their competitive advantage (Amit and Schoemaker, 1993; Barney, 1991; Mahoney and Pandian, 1992; Wernerfelt, 1995). Based on numerous studies, organizational culture is a core component of the sources that foster competitive advantages in organizations (Pfeffer, 1998; Pringle and Kroll, 1997). Prevailing research claims that strong corporate cultures improve firm performance by facilitating internal behavioral consistency (Sørensen, 2002).

An effective work culture is about vigorous and arduous efforts in pursuit of given or chosen tasks. Organizational cultures can be classified into two different types. A constructive culture involves fearlessness, purity, self-control, sacrifice, straightforwardness, self-denial, calmness, absence of fault finding, absence of greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of envy and pride. The destructive culture involves egoism, delusion, personal desires, improper performance, and work not oriented towards service.


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