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Searching for Signs of Meaningful Work in the Universe

Solar_sysBy Dan King

You’ve sensed for some time now that all is not right at work.  Each new workday brings a strange encounter of some kind.  Your boss seems to be from another planet, your co-workers fall in line like robots, and now that unfamiliar green slime in the break room is spreading.  No, you’re not paranoid.  Your workplace may be inhabited by aliens.

Here’s how you can tell:

Your company’s mission statement reads like a supreme command from the Mothership.

Mission statements are supposed to guide managers and employees toward a clear vision of where the company wants to go.  But often they sound like conspiracy theories written in secret code, rife with dictates and decrees about domination, exploitation and pre-eminence.  “We strive to dominate our competitors, exploit our markets, and be the pre-eminent provider of widgets in the universe.”

Your work environment resembles the set of Star Trek.

Research consistently shows that pleasant physical surroundings create more positive, productive workers.  Yet many office environments are completely devoid of earthly comforts.  Identical offices surround corrals of cubicles interconnected by advanced technology and telecommunications devices with blinking indicators and audio alerts.  As events unwind during the day, workers simultaneously pop their heads up, like ground hogs, to see what in the world is going on – or perhaps to make contact with other human life.

Your boss is a pain in Uranus.

Despite an abundance of enlightened management theories and practices, many bosses still choose to micro-manage, destroying any notions of pride or dignity in their employees.  It’s not uncommon for employees to sense that “big brother” looking over their shoulder.  With the advent of today’s sophisticated monitoring technology, these complaints have grown louder and more frequent.  Such “snoopervision” increases employee paranoia.  If you feel like someone (or something) is watching you, it could be a warning.

Your co-workers communicate in Nanospeak.

Communication is the cornerstone of a civilized society.  But if you listen closely to the language of the modern workplace, you might think you’ve stumbled upon a new life form.  “Human capital” is “leveraged” through “strategic talent development” and resources are “optimized” via state-of-the-art “knowledge management practices.”  Many people actually appear to be talking to themselves, like “spaceshots” in a science experiment gone awry, but only communicate via email to the earthling in the next cube.

Androids have replaced Earthlings.

The males of the species compete in a Martian show of dominance, while the females strive for alpha status, ready to take over at any moment.  Together they’re like meteors on a collision course of universal proportions.  Attempts to “dress for success,” have created a culture of look-alikes, even on “casual Fridays.”  True, the new administrative assistant with the pink hair and the flea collar is an exception, but she’s only a temp, placed on this planet to complete a short-term mission.  The rest are clones.  With such uniformity, it’s only a matter of time until the silver suit with the V-neck and the white boots becomes the standard dress code.

Is a “war of the worlds” imminent?  And if so, what can you do?  Bring in the FBI?  Call HR?  Phone Home?

If you’ve read this far, one thing you can do is plant your feet firmly on Earth.  Since the whole universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old, my guess is that space invaders have already been here, looked for signs of intelligent life, and concluded that they needed to look elsewhere.

Which is what you should do too.  If your worklife has drifted too far from your personal values and beliefs, and your workplace is hurling meaninglessly toward some unknown space, then it’s time to do some exploration of the larger world-of-work.  Before signing up for the first mission to Mars, put your antennae up.

Meaningful work doesn’t reside in some faraway place.  It’s closer than you think — but you probably having difficulty seeing it.  Take a deeper look at your career/work choices.  Are you doing what you wanted to do? What’s working and what’s not? What would make your work more meaningful to you? What do you need to change?  What are you moving toward?  What is your vision of your future?

Quite simply, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re not likely to find it.  To move toward a more meaningful worklife, you must open yourself to the power of the universe:  speak with others, read career books and articles, seek out role models, find a mentor or coach.  In other words, search for signs of meaningful worklives to guide your way.

May the force be with you.

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