Ask Root September/October 2014

Rashel Rogers


What should I do if I’m not seeing eye to eye with my manager on how my role impacts the big picture? I don’t feel that my work is aligning with company’s strategy, but my manager clearly believes that the tasks she is giving me are the ones I should be doing.

Feeling disconnected from purposeful work can be frustrating. It can be demotivating to think your role revolves around doing things that don’t make a difference or don’t seem necessary. More than anything, not being able to influence others to share this understanding would make me feel helpless. Oh yes, I have been there. And with absolute conviction, I  can assure you that you are the one who holds the answer. It begins with a shift in your thinking. And, believe it or not, I first came to this revelation by cleaning toilets.

As a responsible adult, cleaning the toilet is my absolute least favorite task. Then one night I got a terrible stomachache. I found my head propped on the very toilet I had despised cleaning earlier that day – and I have never been so grateful for pristine porcelain. I also felt relieved that I was the one sick and not a cherished houseguest or one of my precious young daughters. At that moment, toilet cleaning became about keeping my family and friends comfortable and healthy. I was able to bring purpose to the task rather than waiting for the task to become purposeful.

And that’s the solution. Rather than arguing with your manager to assign you different tasks, your best approach is to find something within the tasks that can be used to support the company’s higher purpose. If your company values innovation or learning, ask yourself: Is there a tool or technology that I want to learn that can be used to complete this task? If your company values engagement, ask: Can I involve others or bridge this effort to something that already has momentum within the organization?

This technique has worked for me in more than just toilet cleaning. When I got stuck with compliance tasks that no one wanted, I came to a solution that eventually revolutionized the way employees worked. When I encountered a very delicate employee relations issue, this approach led me to an answer that became a valued tradition among the entire workforce. With just a little shift in thinking, I found choices. And through those choices, I found purpose. And nothing is more convincing than the results.