Feeling disconnected: actions that matter at work and in our society

Are you feeling disconnected with your actions? Do you feel they matter? Can you recognize your impact at work or in society? Today I am happy to introduce our special guest Marianna Melin, a psychologist and Ph.D. researcher working at the intersection of environmental sciences and psychology. She talks about the disconnect between our actions and the results we can observe. Indeed, this has a strong impact both as we work for organizations and as we try to help tackling the climate crisis. Let’s see how!

The disconnection epidemics

In the complex modern world, there’s a shared problem with big organizations and society at large – feeling disconnected. As a matter of fact, disengagement lead to consequences we often overlook, affecting both our workplaces and the broader environment.

Within large organizations, employees can sometimes feel like mere cogs in a machine. They go about their tasks without a clear understanding of how their contributions fit into the company’s overall success: how their actions matter – or do they matter at all. The result of this can be disengagement, burnout, reduced job satisfaction, and a lack of motivation. If it is challenging to derive a sense of purpose or realize the broader impact of one’s work, it will ultimately lead to an unfulfilling work environment.

We don’t see the impact of our actions on the environment

Our interactions with the society often exhibit a similar disconnect. We consume resources and produce waste without fully grasping the consequences of our actions. This lack of visibility from action to results makes it difficult to see the cause-and-effect relationship between our choices and the resulting societal and environmental outcomes.

To illustrate, let’s take the example of consuming a product. In this process, we generate waste, such as the packaging the item comes in. We dispose of the trash by tossing it into a bin, which is later emptied by someone else. But do we really understand the entire journey of that product, from its origin to its end? The answer is often no.

Consider the life cycle of a product like this: it begins with actions like cutting down trees in a forest, processing the timber, manufacturing the packaging materials, and finally, managing the waste. Unfortunately, these steps are usually invisible to us. The sources and consequences of these products are both physically and temporally distant from us.

In contrast, in smaller societies, every stage of this process was visible. We could directly witness how our choices affected the environment around us. If we consumed excessively, we saw a direct impact on the immediate surroundings. However, in our present-day complex society, this direct connection is lost. The consequences of our daily actions seem remote and detached.

Feeling disconnected hurts

This detachment from the impact of our choices raises a crucial question: If we don’t perceive ourselves as having a noticeable impact, why would we bother considering the implications of what we consume or how we handle the waste we generate? This is analogous to large organizations; if we don’t perceive ourselves having an impact, why would we think twice if we are contributing in the best way possible. We work in more convenience and autopilot mode.

This kind of disconnect can expand to many aspects of life. It may be contributing to a sense of detachment, frustration, and a lack of purpose. People may be left questioning their impact and struggling to find meaning in their actions, both at work and in their daily lives.

One key question is how can we increase the connectedness?

Organizations can start to bridge the gap between employees and their understanding of their roles within the company, which can lead to a more engaged, motivated, and fulfilled workforce. This, in turn, can positively impact the company’s overall performance and the mental well-being of its employees.

Every employee needs to understand the significance of their work. It is shown in multiple studies, that the experience of meaningful work is linked to well-being, work engagement and performance among other positive outcomes. For instance, understanding how one’s work contributes to the well-being of others serves as a significant predictor for perceiving one’s work as meaningful.

Simultaneously, organizations can play a pivotal role in helping employees recognize their broader societal impact. By engaging individuals on various levels and encouraging them to contribute to improving processes, organizations empower employees to see the significance of their roles beyond the immediate workplace.

Bridge the gap

There are many ways to start bridging this gap in different communities. Here are a few examples what organizations can do to foster more connectedness:

  1. Clarify the Purpose and Vision

Leaders must communicate a clear and compelling vision that highlights the significance of each individual’s contribution to the company’s goals. When employees understand how their work aligns with the bigger picture, they feel more engaged and purposeful.

  1. Encourage Open Communication

Establishing an open and transparent communication channel is crucial. Employees need a platform where they can ask questions, share ideas, and receive feedback. This fosters a sense of belonging and helps them see how their efforts contribute to the organization’s success.

  1. Cultivating a Positive Work Culture

Fostering a positive work environment that values diversity, inclusivity, and work-life balance is crucial. When employees feel supported and valued, they are more likely to engage actively and take ownership of their roles.

  1. Try to make the impacts visible on multiple levels

  • Don’t overlook the micro-feedback: All the small messages like “thank you”, “this helped”, “I saw you put a lot of effort into this” will make people feel more seen and heard, and feel they are contributing to their immediate surroundings
  • Make the bigger picture clear: Ensure that teams really comprehend the overall roadmap of their projects and have access to give and receive feedback.
  • Make sure to give recognition: Recognition in individual and group level serves as a powerful motivator. Indeed, it reinforces the connection between an employee’s efforts and the organization’s success.
  • Cultivate exposure to task significance: Overall, exposure to task significance in the form of even small cues and narratives can enhance job performance by increasing the understanding of the impact of one’s work.
  1. Incorporating Sustainable Practices into the work culture

  • Introducing environmentally sustainable practices within the organization can also help employees see the direct impact of their actions on the environment. However, the purpose and impact of the actions bust be clearly communicated. This fosters a sense of responsibility and awareness about the broader consequences of their work.

The benefits of Connectedness

Will the increase in connectedness solve all problems in employee engagement or an environmental crisis?


Will efforts to increase connectedness induce more awareness and engagement in the work place or within the society?

Most likely.

Feeling meaningful, and owning a strong sense of purpose is important for personal development, performance, and building a better society. As an example, you can read an inspiring witnessing about the power of finding purpose here.

We all want to feel we matter in the communities we are part of so let’s try to make that happen: for the good of the community and for the good of the individual.

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