Illustrated Blog


Alice Waters cartoon larger

Should you follow your passion?

Chopping chives, frying fish, beating batter, or otherwise preparing food makes me borderline homicidal. I dislike the feeling of sticky hands, of splattering oil, of puffs of flour, and of seemingly every culinary sensation. What if my kitchen duties were part of a job that was “purposed,” meaning it made a positive social impact? Would that change anything? For example, what if I cooked at café that stayed open an additional hour to feed adorable children, worthy families, and cute kittens who happened to be homeless? I would want to murder all those lovely creatures. Yes. I, the purpose zealot, admit that purpose won’t fix my cooking-induced rage. That’s not to say that the purposed version of my odious job won’t be more motivating and engaging than the purpose-deprived version. Per the findings

Brene Brown cartoon

The underbelly of job purposing

I have a confession. I’ve written and spoken, some might say ad nauseam, about the evidence-based benefits of job purposing. I’ve shared that job purposing, defined as helping others or a charitable cause through work, improves your job satisfaction, work performance, and mental health. It even makes you wealthier! Yet, job purposing is not all sweetness and rainbows. It can hurt us. Compassion fatigue For starters, job purposing can trigger “compassion fatigue.” This ailment is a specific form of “occupational burnout” that is caused by excessive exposure to the suffering of others. Whether you call it compassion fatigue, occupational burnout or a sucky feeling, you don’t want it. In extreme cases, compassion fatigue makes us calloused, hopeless, stressed, anxious and incapable of enjoyment. Because job purposing sensitizes us to the suffering around us,

Conan Doyle cartoon

Is your team sick of purpose?

Audience members sometimes ask to hire me to deliver the “the exact” speech they heard me give. I typically agree. Then I fail. I add a story, fold in new data, twist the ending or otherwise change the presentation I’m supposed to leave untouched. When reviewing my slides ahead of time, one client noticed my disobedience. She sent an email asking why I changed the “perfectly good” presentation she had hired me to deliver. I saw her point. Why was I unnecessarily complicating the job? Why was I refusing to honor her request? Since I had no good answer, I promised to repeat with precision the speech she heard. The evening before her conference, I struggled to rehearse. As I prattled into the hotel-room mirror, I lost focus and yawned

Archie Green cartoon

It’s not just work

University of Illinois professor, Archie Green, spent a lifetime studying the modern folklore of work. He listened to the songs, recited the poems and read the novels that related to labor. What did he conclude is our fundamental belief about work? “I work, therefore I am.”[1] It sounds ludicrous, as if we were merely a species of workaholics. But Green was more right than we know. Work shapes us in surprisingly incisive ways. Consider how we get to know new acquaintances. “What do you do?” is often our first inquiry. It’s not just small talk. We view and treat a drummer starkly differently than a dentist — even if their physiques, hometowns, attires, personalities and everything else about them are identical. Our image of someone we meet at a bar or on

Frans de Waal cartoon

Are your coworkers mostly good or mostly evil?

Inner Giver vs Inner Egotist Except for extreme sociopaths, we’re all born with an inclination to contribute to the welfare of others without expectation of a reward (see evidence in prior posts). We have what I call an Inner Giver. And, yes, this includes your coworkers. Unless you recently ingested a hallucinogenic, however, you’re aware that people aren’t purely good. We also have an odious Inner Egotist who blithely tramples on others. A debate has rung through the ages and continues to blare: Are we primarily Inner Giver or Inner Egotist? Economists, philosophers, spiritual leaders and Hollywood scriptwriters have not been able to agree on the answer. Advances in the natural and social sciences, however, are putting an end to the debate. Nature promotes species survival by ensuring that evolutionarily productive

Charles Antis Quote job purposing cartoon by Bea Boccalandro

The nasty thing that undermines your management

Imagine that a vicious competitor secretly installed an evil device in your company’s lobby. Without workers knowing, the contraption zaps away half their motivation and productivity. Perky people approach the building, but wilted workers arrive at your meeting. Guess what? If your company is like most, that nasty demotivating device is already firmly installed. According to research by Georgetown University’s Christine Porath, it has zapped 98 percent of workers. Don’t, however, look for a science-fiction gizmo in the rafters. Look at your work culture. With its hard edges and intolerance for inefficiency, today’s dominant work culture is sterile and cold. Workers are not comfortable caring for others or even expressing concern for human suffering. A central part of their personality, their Inner Giver, is exiled from their place of work.

Holly Branson Cartoon 2

Six ways to ignite purpose at work, starting with the job interview

In October 2017, the Boston Red Sox offered Alex Cora the team manager position, a promotion from the second-in-command role he had with the Houston Astros. Cora wanted the job but had one condition. The job candidate asked his prospective employer to provide a plane full of supplies to help Puerto Ricans struggling to rebuild their lives amidst the ruins of Hurricane Maria. Most people wouldn’t dream of allowing their Inner Giver — that part of us that is squishy, empathic and yearns to help — anywhere near a job negotiation. It’s unprofessional. If that’s the case, we should all aspire to unprofessionalism. Our Inner Givers belong in job negotiations — and in meetings, performance reviews, recognition efforts, procurement plans, manual labor and whatever else we do for work. Why?

Pema Chodron cartoon portrait

Is this why you’re acting selfishly?

A group of students is asked to walk to another building to deliver a speech. They encounter a man slumped in a doorway, coughing and groaning. Unbeknownst to the students, the man is a hired actor. This Princeton University experiment found that students who possessed one particular thing were six times more likely to help than those who didn’t. Did the helpers have religious faith? Extroversion? Stronger ethics? Two X chromosomes? Frosted donuts for breakfast? None of the above. They had time. Sixty-three percent of the students who were given ample time to get to their appointment stopped to help, versus 10% of those who were told they were late.[1] In other words, haste stifles our charitable instinct, our Inner Giver. If this is the case, modern work life might