Recently (2019), Xing surveyed more than 17,000 of its members on salary, and a primary finding is that one in ten XING users would change jobs for a more meaningful job. According to the study, Generation Y in particular attaches importance to meaning in the job than to the “pure paycheck at the end of the month”.

This is just one of many surveys that consider the meaning of the work execution to be very important. From a similar point of view, I conducted workshops on the search for meaning and team vision with 9 teams in 2019 and I noticed that not everyone needs a sense and it is often difficult to find, especially in routine tasks. But the topic of meaning is currently such a big topic in the minds of many managers that a real search for meaning is being kicked off in some companies.

Reading tip: Team workshop for the search for meaning

Finding meaning in companies

Companies often advertise with meaning at work and free development on the career portal. Magazines like the WiWo also give tips on how to find more meaning in your work. The most important are:

  • Making a private connection to the profession
  • Finding and further training new tasks
  • Creating a productive environment
  • Clarify and increase the importance of the job
  • Investing in meaningfulness and possibly changing jobs

Now, during one of my lectures at the Long Night Sciences 2019, I was asked whether every job really wants such a clear sense and whether this is necessary for everyone at all. I found this question exciting and gave a rather detailed answer, which I will summarize below.

Does every job have to make sense?

I have been dealing with this question personally for a very long time and I am also thinking for myself how much meaning I actually need. In an interview with Tim Hagemann in Die Zeit, the following quote can be found:

When asked about their ideal fulfillment, people who see a sense in their work feel happier than people whose job serves the pure bread-to-bread. Conversely, a high income compensates for an unfulfilling activity.

Tim Hagemann in an interview with Die Zeit

Many in my environment are looking for meaning, free development and professional progress, but there are also a large number who have retreated into private life. I experience this group as completely motivated. Some of them are building a house or finding meaning in the family or in their involvement in a club. The profession should not be so stressful because it simply serves to finance life. This group has a purpose but it is not in the profession.

I think everyone needs a sense but they don’t have to be compulsive in the job.

Proactive work makes more sense than reactive work

I would also like to mention the second group: the large number of people seeking meaning in the job. In my workshops with the teams, I noticed that with more proactive jobs such as sales or agile teams with a customer connection, the sense was much easier to find than with routine tasks such as receptionist, support or a telephone ist. But what exactly do I mean by that?

Easy to find meaning for procative tasks

According to Duden, Proaktiv meansthrough differentiated advance planning and targeted action, determining the development of an event itself and creating a situation“. It is therefore a question of jobs in which the day-to-day work and tasks can be largely self-determined.

I often find this with the agile consulting teams or in sales. The agile teams, for example, advised customers, recommended new technologies and implemented them. So it was a rather proactive work with a lot of influence of its own. Visions such as: “We make customers successful and help to develop the mobility of tomorrow” were enough and motivated the team and made sense. The motivation was to sell your own ideas to the customer and make them successful.

Difficult sense, especially for reactive routine tasks

It was rather difficult to find the meaning of teams with routine tasks. These are rather reactive: one reacts to an event and is almost more foreign-controlled. Let’s take a representative at the reception of a hotel. Of course, we want to satisfy the guests and be the best hotel in the world. But the problem is that the job is quite reactive.

Concretely: A guest comes and I work on his request. A similar situation is also at the bank counter or in the German post office or in my area in support. Some time ago I was together with the government of NRW and the DIHK in the Castle of Work in Dortmund. Miners also suffered greatly from the work, as one had the feeling that one could never be finished, because the mountain seemed almost endless.

With this job, an employee actually has the feeling that you never get on and you don’t get done directly, because one customer after another keeps coming. It was hard to almost impossible to really find a vision and meaning in the work. We had first drafts but I wasn’t satisfied.

At the moment, I think you may not have to make sense at all. The teams from my workshops told me that they are so highly motivated because the working environment is just good. This means in concrete terms: I work with my favorite colleagues for a good salary and do something I enjoy halfway. Perhaps that is the right way to go?


In conclusion, there are two ways to answer the question. First, there are a large number who are not looking for a point in the job and therefore do not need one. Second, the group of seekers in the job is divided into two types: reactive and proactive work.

Proactive work often has an easy-to-find meaning. It is still difficult for us to find meaning for the reactive work. My approach is that we should not enforce it, but simply a good environment for motivation is important for reactive work.

Concretely: ordinary salary, nice colleagues, modern offices and good management. At least that’s what my recent conversations with employees who do such a reactive job have shown. What do you mean? How important is the sense of your job?

Wieviel Sinn brauchen Sie im Job?

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Gender note: I have used the male form for easier reading. If no explicit distinction is made, women, miscellaneous and men as well as people of any origin and nation are always meant. Read more.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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