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The Search for Significance

If you work in the marketplace, you have no doubt heard the term “quiet quitting.” Last year, a young engineer coined the term in a TikTok describing the concept as, “not outright quitting your job, but quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the mentality that work has to be your life.”

Various media personalities were quick to pass judgement on younger professionals, mainly Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012). Yet, as Cal Newport observes, that quiet quitting is not unique to a generation or this cultural moment. Quiet quitting is not unique to a generation or this cultural moment. Each generation faces the tension of figuring out how work fits into a well-lived life. Quiet quitting is the messy starting gun of a new generation embarking on this challenge,” writes Newport.

In other words, the quiet quitting phenomenon of 2022 had more to do with a lack of engagement, disillusionment, and assigned significance than with entitlement or slothfulness. Issues arise when businesses, companies, and leaders fail to connect well with their employees and people.

In Seth Godin’s latest book, The Song of Significance, the author and entrepreneur offer meaningful insights into work and life in the modern age. While at times abstract, Godin does provide struggling leaders and professionals with some great wisdom. In Song of Significance, Godin explores why many are disillusioned with work and how leaders can cast a greater vision for employees and teams. 

Finding Fulfilment

What if instead of money, power, and influence employees today desire something deeper? Drawing on researching from 10,000 workers over 90 countries, Godin observes three characteristics for employee fulfilment: agency, vision, and dignity.

  1. Vision: knowing that one’s work is contribution to something important
  2. Dignity: Being treated with mutual respect and humanity


Agency is about encouraging employee trust and creative licence. Instead of micromanaging, agency is earned trust and autonomy for employees that show initiative and creativity. A leader has the challenge and opportunity to create a workplace where employees are “creating a difference, being a part of something, and doing work they’re proud of.” 


Vision is achieved by casting a clear and hopeful vision of an organisation’s work and demonstrating how one’s work is vital to the greater whole. 


Since May 2 2023, writers, actors, and members of the Writers Guild of America have been on strike. While the reasons for the strike are a combination of “…minimum fees, royalties, staffing requirements, and even the use of artificial intelligence in script production” one of the throughlines is writers desiring to be compensated fairly and to be seen as collaborators and treated with dignity.

Godin argues that in the industrialism complex, leaders fail to provide the necessary care for employees which leads to insignificant work. Overall, employees desire to be respected and seen as people. More than machines or tasks rabbits, employee satisfaction is about being a leader that sees and listens well. 

Change can be scary but to bring about real transformation, the kind of transformation our world and workplaces need. After all, “the choice is simple: we can endure the hangover of industrial capitalism, keep treating people as disposable, and join in the AI-fueled race to the bottom. Or we come together to build a significant organisation that enrols, empowers, and trusts everyone to deliver their best work, no matter where they are.”