But it really isn’t only that generation. The search for meaning at work has been gathering pace across all generations. In the so-called developed world, with the occasional hiccup (primarily recessions), we’ve been fairly steadily moving up Maslow’s hierarchy over the last 60 or 70 years. What was a pre-occupation for philosophers has become a question for all of us.
My parents’ generation generally sought out work to make sure they had shelter and could feed the kids. Some level of assurance that you wouldn’t get killed at work and a fair wage were pretty much the main (arguably only) requirements. (aaah – simpler times!)
My generation didn’t face those same issues as much. We started to look at climbing the career ladder more aggressively. By the dawn of the millennium, technology helped as we spawned a fairly self-promotional approach to work. This was fed by Web 2.0 where we could all
blag blog our way to fame.
Looks a lot like a search for self-esteem.
Fast forward a little, and now we’re increasingly hearing about the need to add meaning at work not just for Millenials – I also see it in my generation, so-called “Generation X”. For many of us, it took us to middle-age to get to positions of responsibility (and esteem). But at the same time as that happened, wealth has been (mostly) on the increase, and Western society in the main, or at least in the professional ranks that we occupy, has had less concerns about the bottom rungs of Maslow. So having taken the first half of our careers getting here, we’re now trying to inject more meaning with an increased desire to contribute, and to do it through work.
Sounds a lot like a search for self-actualisation.
This is Maslow’s hierarchy at work, in work. The bar in terms of what we demand from work has simply moved up a level over time.