• Kathy Andrews

Are you willing to earn less to do more meaningful work?


by Shawn Achor, Andrew Reece, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, and Alexi Robichaux

Harvard Business Review

In his introduction to Working, the landmark 1974 oral history of work, Studs Terkel positioned meaning as an equal counterpart to financial compensation in motivating the American worker. “[Work] is about a search…for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor,” he wrote. Among those “happy few” he met who truly enjoyed their labors, Terkel noted a common attribute: They had “a meaning to their work over and beyond the reward of the paycheck.”


More than forty years later, myriad studies have substantiated the claim that American workers expect something deeper than a paycheck in return for their labors. Current compensation levels show only a marginal relationship with job satisfaction. By contrast, since 2005, the importance of meaningfulness in driving job selection has grown steadily. “Meaning is the new money, an HBR article argued in 2011. Why, then, haven’t more organizations taken concrete actions to focus their cultures on the creation of meaning?


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