Meaningful blather

I'm currently going through an online course in the business leadership vein, of which there are multitudes, but this one specifically is on a subject that produces immense quantities of corporate blather: communicating the meaningfulness of the work, from the corner office to the peons doing the actual labour.

Oh wait, is my bias showing there?

The thing is, I do recognize that a person who finds meaning in their work is going to do a better job and be more engaged than someone who doesn't, all else being equal.

Where the corporate blather comes in is when the company tries to hand wave meaning into tasks or ill defined aspirations. The positively unreadable vision and mission statements of so many companies are great examples of this. "Our vision is to be the best in our field" or something so generic seems to me pretty useless at engaging employees.

What if you're making some non-essential item that the company has spent loads of marketing dollars to convince people that they totally need? Where's the meaning there? Do the people making, shipping, and selling those things find them meaningful? Do the company owners find their chosen product(s) meaningful, or are they trying to wave around a concept of meaning to get more labour out of their employees?

But then, how much of what I classify as "corporate blather" is them being bad at communicating meaning, how much is them handwaving to hide a lack of meaning, and how much is me simply not being the target audience? (I heard once that if you find an advert annoying then you're not the target audience. Seems I'm not the target audience for the vast majority of ads I've seen...)

The course did a good job at describing factors that contribute to a sense of meaninglessness of work. Alas, many of the factors that undermine meaning in work are ones I and my friends have encountered many times. Not seeing results, lack of autonomy... being berated for taking initiative to improve or suggest an improvement to a process really takes the cake though. The course mentions Marx and his concept of "alienation of labour" (note to self, read a bit of Marx) which would be related. Meaninglessness, disconnection, alienation—all describe a situation in which workers do only what they must for the pay they need in order to live.

(I promise the next one won't be so cynical. Had to get the easy snark out of my system first...)