Bob Goldman

Let me ask you a question: What's the best part of your job?

Is it your paycheck? Not hardly. Is it the opportunity to work with a group of scintillating, attractive, intelligent people? Not really. Is it the opportunity for personal growth thanks to a manager whose brilliance and wisdom are like beacons shining in the cosmic darkness? Say what?

If you've responded to all my questions in a nugatory fashion, you are like most Americans. What you like most, if you like anything at all, is the fact that what you do has meaning. You have a purpose. You are making a difference. You matter.

At least, that's what Adam Grant wrote earlier this year in "The #1 Feature of a Meaningless Job" on Huffington Post.

"For decades," explains the Wharton School of Business professor, "Americans have ranked purpose as their top priority." As Studs Turkel put it, we want "daily meaning as well as daily bread."

So what is the purpose of all this purpose we're supposed to be wanting? According to Grant, it's all about feeling good about our jobs and ourselves because our work "makes the world a better place."

Consider a recent survey in which ordinary folks were asked the level of meaningfulness in the jobs of fashion designer, TV newscast director and airline reservation agent. When the results were in, 90 percent of respondents felt these jobs were not only not meaningful but that "if they didn't exist, people wouldn't be all that much worse off."

These results are, of course, ridiculous. How would you ever present yourself as a total fashion-plate love-muffin if it weren't for the labors of your personal SWAT team of fashion designers, makeup artists and plastic surgeons?

On the other hand, jobs such as fire chief, child life specialist and neurosurgeon were considered meaningful. Really? I say, the next time you need a new outfit to wear to the office party, call a fire chief.

But back to the data. Yet another survey, this one of 11,000 employees, found "the single strongest predictor of meaningfulness was the belief that the job had a positive impact on others."

This would make your job very meaningful, indeed. Your attitude of indifference and scorn, combined with your lack of productivity, have the positive impact of making your co-workers look like superstars in comparison. That's meaningful!

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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