Why We Work

With her SEEDS grant, Miriam Lipsky, of UM's Office of Institutional Culture, explores how employees can turn work into a calling.

 

By Meredith Camel

With her SEEDS grant, Miriam Lipsky, of UM's Office of Institutional Culture, explores how employees can turn work into a calling.

 

Why We Work

By Meredith Camel
In this SEEDS “You Choose” Leadership Award workshop, employees discuss how social identities influence workplace engagement.

Do you consider your work to be a job, a career, or a calling? Miriam Lipsky, senior learning and facilitation specialist in the UM Office of Institutional Culture, posed this question to employees who signed up to attend the Why We Work workshop in the Shalala Student Center on February 26.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of the 2015 Why We Work book and TED Talk, was on a research team that studied these main categories of work motivation in 1997: job (motivated by financial rewards), career (focus on advancement), and calling (integral to self-expression and personal fulfillment). Lipsky, a former student of Schwartz at Swarthmore College, used the SEEDS “You Choose” Leadership Award she received to engage 53 UM faculty and staff members and graduate students in conversations about the factors that influence why they come to work each day.

“We wanted to connect the book with our Culture of Belonging efforts,” Lipsky said. “There’s a connection between how engaged people are at work and whether they feel they have a job, a career, or a calling.”

Cosponsored by the UM Women’s Commission and the School of Education and Human Development, the workshop challenged participants to think about all of their social identities—such as race, gender, socioeconomic class, age, abilities/disabilities, body size, work role—and whether those identities affect how others perceive them, how they make decisions, what kinds of privileges or power they have, and why they come to work at UM. Intergroup dialogue exercises broke down some of the hierarchical barriers that often exist—whether between faculty and staff, between men and women, or between members of different ethnic groups.

“I hope people walked away from this workshop more aware of their social identities and how they relate to their work and to others at their work,” said Lipsky, who is the co-principal investigator on an external grant application to expand faculty-staff intergroup dialogue throughout the University. Intergroup dialogue is one of many initiatives the Office of Institutional Culture is pursuing to deepen employee engagement.

The Office of Faculty Affairs awards a number of $2,500 SEEDS “You Choose” Leadership Awards each year, and faculty members from any discipline may apply. Formerly a STEM-focused program (Scientists and Engineers Expanding Diversity and Success), SEEDS has evolved into “A SEED for Success,”  with the goal to champion “mentoring, leadership, peer networking, research initiatives, and interdisciplinary faculty career workshops that empower women and strengthen diversity,” explained SEEDS program manager Marisol Capellan.

After presenting an overview of SEEDS programs, Capellan urged participants to use the insight they gained from their colleagues in the workshop to enhance the reasons why they work.

“You now have in your hands the decision to transform your job into a calling,” she said.


topics: