Bosses Can’t Help You Feel Satisfied on the Job, But You Can

When it comes to finding meaning in the workplace, bosses can't do much for you. But individual reflection can help.

Bosses Can’t Help You Feel Satisfied on the Job, But You Can

Those who feel that their boss isn’t helping them find meaning at work might be right. A study shows that even when individuals have supervisors who are considered to be great leaders, those supervisors don’t typically add to any sense of meaning for the employee when it comes to the workplace. Unfortunately, however, it looks as though bosses can take away meaning from an employee’s job with negative interactions.


The results aren’t specific to one type of career either, since the researchers surveyed a variety of different jobs — “from priests to garbage collectors” — to gather their findings. In the end, it seems that individuals had to find meaning for themselves in the workplace. Meaning can depend on factors such as how much we feel our work matters to others, and whether we can connect our work to personal experiences we’ve had throughout life.

There’s something fascinating about the idea of humbling our bosses. That might be the reason why the reality TV show “Undercover Boss” has gotten some popularity. In the show, upper management employers visit a store in their chain (for example one show was about hot dog chain Wienerschnitzel) and experience what it’s like to be an entry-level employee there. Middle management doesn’t always come out looking too hot on the show, and there are sometimes instances of firing people based on the findings.

It seems that no matter where employees stand in the workplace hierarchy, there is just something addictive about watching a boss have to deal with the challenges of taking orders and keeping up in the workplace. And there’s a tendency to want to know which bosses are best. For instance, Business Insider recently did a poll, showing that people in the Western U.S. give their bosses slightly higher quality marks than those in the Northeastern U.S. So maybe we can't disregard the influence of geography. Overall, it looks like everyone wants to know how they can develop a better work situation.


Header Image: John Pratt / Stringer

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