Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Purpose Anxiety

Author: Mary E. Corrado

“Purpose anxiety” is a newer term used to describe the doubt and distress people experience over figuring out their purpose or sense of meaning in life. Many people struggle with figuring out how they can make a difference – both in their personal life and at work.

A study published online in the December 10, 2019 edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found the presence of meaning in life is associated with better physical and mental well-being, while the search for meaning in life may be associated with worse mental well-being and cognitive functioning.

While the main focus of most studies on this topic focus on finding the purpose in your life on a personal level, it’s also important to feel a sense of purpose within the organization you work for. An article I found on the Korn Ferry website suggests asking yourself and your employees these two very important questions:

1.       Does purpose permeate your day-to-day work?

2.       Are you searching for a deeper sense of meaning?

To empower purpose, leaders must first identify what motivates each employee.  A study by Kumanu analyzed over 19,000 employee work purpose statements using machine learning techniques, and identified six major typologies employees may fall into:

1.       Team Players – 30%

These employees identify more with their “work family” than the company as a whole. A strong team can help insulate against a toxic culture. Employees are more likely to tolerate culture misgivings if they feel a strong connection to their team.

2.       Advancers – 22%

These employees are passionate about their career and have set goals they want to achieve.  They often have trouble connecting their personal goals with those of the organization.

3.       Accomplishers – 16%

This type of employee is focused on personal excellence and growth at work. They need to be reminded often how their day to day, seemingly mundane tasks connect back to their individual purpose.

4.       Company People – 15%

These employees have a strong sense of work purpose but may lack a personal purpose.  It’s important to encourage them to find meaning outside of work.

5.       Providers – 9%

This type of employee is focused on financial security.  They find purpose in providing for themselves and their family. They might struggle to connect their financial goals with those of the organization.

6.       Transcenders – 9%

These employees have a strong connection with their higher purpose in life, but again might struggle to make that connection with the organization’s purpose.  This is especially difficult if their work is routine or mundane.

It’s important to discuss purpose with each of your employees during one on one conversations. Help them identify why they do the work they do and how it contributes to their purpose as well as the organization.

How do you help your employees feel a sense of purpose within your organization?  Email me at

Categories: Blog


Subscribe to EverythingPeople This Week!

Get valuable insight into the developments
both inside and outside the HR position.




Filter by Authors

LinkedIn Facebook Twitter YouTube


American Society of Employers

Victor Park West
19575 Victor Parkway, Suite 100
Livonia, MI 48152

Contact Us
Phone: (248) 353-4500
Fax: (248) 353-1224