The importance of cultivating a true sense of purpose

Do we feel our work is purposeful? And what does that even look like?

It would seem a lot of us are feeling the strain at work and at home as a result of factors such as economic uncertainty and rising inflation, exhaustion from the pandemic, staff shortages, reduced interpersonal interaction  – and the list could go on.  As a means of escape, many of us have turned to social media for distraction – only to be met with a powerful discourse through words, captivating images and compelling stories from prominent influencers, all of which have the ability to create a particular perspective of our social world made all the more powerful by filter-bubble algorithms.

One such concept made viral by social media applications like TikTok is the concept of “quiet quitting“. A way of looking at it could be working to rule and doing no more and no less than what’s stipulated on the employment contract.  This concept is of course not new, but it does seem to be gaining new focus and building a plethora of followers, especially as our new way of remote working starts to become the norm, and people’s work and home life start to fuse together, no longer separated by the ritual of commuting to an office.

So, what exactly is the issue with quiet quitting? 

The fact is that we all spend a considerable amount of our time at work and if we see our work as just a job, we block out anything else that it could be.  “Seeing is also not seeing” (Kenneth Burke).

Another way to see the quiet quitting concept might be as draining the life from a role and simply existing.  Can you imagine if the food we ate had no taste but simply sustained us? Yes, we could live like this, but I think it’s fair to say that’s not really living, it’s simply existing.  Is the medicine some seem to be prescribing themselves actually making them worse, not better?

Are there alternative strategies to cope with the strain some are feeling?

This is where our sense of purpose really starts to matter.  A recent survey we conducted on the Power of Purpose measured responses from across the finance industry looking at four key elements of purposeful work, something we call The Purpose Equation.

Authentic:  Values, behaviours and actions align

Engaging:  Motivates you on an internal level

Noble:  Provides benefit to others

Ambiguity:  You don’t really know what your company does or how you fit in


Sionic Survey Results

And this is what we found:

Sionic survey results

With a quarter of those surveyed unable to indicate that they feel their purpose at work is authentic, and almost one third of respondents indicating they were not engaged at work, it’s no wonder that we are witnessing epic levels of staff turnover – or worse, the disengagement of those who stay. Yet interestingly, 78% of responses indicated their work was noble in nature and helped others beyond themselves. These results show that it is possible to see your firm and your work as helping others, yet still not be fully engaged.  We expect to see the reverse of other factors where respondents report low levels of ambiguity, showing that they have a solid understanding of what their organisations actually do and how their role contributes to that.  What the results show here is over one third of respondents do not have a solid understanding of what their organisation does and how their roles fit in.

Overall, these results indicate that a proportionality high number of respondents are lacking the key elements of purpose in their role and, arguably, will be open to less constructive coping strategies such as quiet quitting.

But what can we practically do as individuals and people leaders to cultivate a greater sense of purpose at work?

One of the tools Sionic has developed based on the well-researched theory of Task Crafting (Dutton & Wrzeniewski) is the MAP of Meaning MAP standing for Mindset, Actions and People.  Combining this with the Purpose Equation above, we set out to give people a practical tool borne out of robust positive psychology research. This places the cultivation of individual purpose firmly in the hands of the employee and not in fate, chance or even your line manager.

To return to the food analogy: if you find food lacks taste, then this tool will help you learn how to grow, prepare and cook food you love.

Find out more about the MAP of meaning and take part in our Power of Purpose survey below.

The Power of Purpose 7 – Job Crafting to increase Purpose

The Power of Purpose Assessment



Meet the expert

Carl Hewitt


I have a passion for designing programmes and mobilising effective cross-functional delivery teams to take on significant organisational initiatives