October 5, 2014

Three Types of Workplace Mindsets

I’d be delighted to hear your opinion on the following definitions of “Workplace Mindsets” I’m toying with in relation to my next book.

  • Job Mindset: Employed to perform transactional duties in return for being monetarily compensated.
  • Career Mindset: Working in an occupation to increase the personal girth of salary, title and/or span of control.
  • Purpose Mindset: Passionate and committed to a meaningful & engaging workplace among all stakeholders.

I’ve already written the sections that pertain to job, career and purpose mindsets … but the definitions themselves can change.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, I’d love to read them below. Many thanks in advance. (and as is customary, I’ll be sure to attribute in the acknowledgements section of the book – after all, what good is a book if you’re not asking for opinion from time to time – even via a personal website)

Also, for the five best suggestions, I’ll happily mail a signed copy of FLAT ARMY: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.

Update: Oct 6 – some edits made based on feedback thus far.

22 Replies to “Three Types of Workplace Mindsets”

  1. Hi Dan
    Fascinating definitions! Thank you for posting.
    I’m intrigued by the Purpose Mindset! (Accepting that I don’t know what you intend to write/have written)
    Can your “purpose” not be a combination of seeking compensation, building a career and being committed to meaningful and engaging workplace conduct?
    Are they to be mutually exclusive?
    The word “conduct” (to me) has the ability to conjure up an idea of something that can be as equally celebratory as something punishable? Perhaps it’s the formality of it.

    On a personal level I would like to think that a Purpose Mindset, whilst having the expectation of some reward, leans more toward personal fulfilment by proving meaningful and engaging to all stakeholders – and not just shareholders.

    Thank you

    1. @Marie-Louise – In fact, yes … the Purpose Mindset is intended to encompass the ‘good’ bits of a job and career mindset, forgetting the ‘bad’ bits that generally create personal and/or professional havoc. I dropped the word ‘conduct’ based on your feedback. You’re right, it was too rigid. The feedback regarding stakeholder/shareholder was sublime. Many thanks.

  2. Hi Dan. Interesting to see no mention of a passion mindset. Do you see a fit? I think a passion mindset might be one part career and one part purpose. Someone might work with what you consider a career mindset, but with the increased girth attributable to a passion. They are committed to a meaningful and overarching engaging purpose, and perhaps the organization can be a pathway to that purpose but perhaps it might not. They are committed, but in a way that is more external. More and more we see people switch organizations to follow their own path, not because of salary or title but because of opportunity to do something more aligned with passion. I see that quite often. Would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. Hey @Donna – To be fair, as soon as I saw your comment, I realized the word ‘passion’ was indeed missing but it needed to be put back in. I originally had called the third level a “Passion Mindset” but then it morphed into a “Purpose Mindset” and the word passion never made it into the definition. It’s now rectified. Thanks for your help.

  3. I see the the job mindset as the hierarchical organization. Top down / command & control 1950s style of management.

    Your flat army organization is the purposeful mindset organization – it’s the knowledge based organization.

    The career mindset organization is the hybrid. Those job mindset organizations that realize that they need to change and are truly moving in that direction (mind you there are plenty of organization that speak of those changes but do not act in that manner – their actions do not match their words). These organizations realize that they need to change. Some are better at managing that change than others.

  4. Hi Dan,

    Not sure if you would include this in the Purpose Mindset definition, but what about a ‘transcendent mindset’? I would think of this as leaders who want to empower and enable others around them to achieve new, bigger, better things.

    I like this idea of reaching out for reader feedback – great idea.


  5. Hi Dan,

    I think these definitions are lacking context. The current definitions should be expanded to highlight the individual employee. An individual’s mindset is dependent on how he or she views the relationship between work and the rest of life. For example, an employee with a Job Mindset likely sees work as a necessary evil; they probably have “bigger and better” things on their mind. The Career Mindset is the sort of means to an end approach, where work and life are on separate, parallel tracks, but the employee considers career advancement as a means to acquiring more things outside of work (e.g. If I get that promotion, I’ll be able to pay for the kids’ college). Employees with a career mindset are loyal to their organization as far as that organization can continue to offer regular milestones with quantifiable payoffs. And finally, employees with a Purpose Mindset consider work and life to be integrated; they consider their workplace a community of sentiment where their needs for connectivity and self-actualization can be met.

    1. @Kyle – You are most right that they are lacking context at the moment. If it’s any consolation, Chapters 7 and 8 of the new book dig right into these definitions to provide the context lacking in the definitions above. (sorry if I wasn’t clear earlier) In fact, Chapters 1 through 6 delve into the reasons for your context assisting definitions of Job and Career mindsets. Thanks so much.

  6. I think one aspect of the ‘Job Mindset’ that would be compelling to explore is almost a subset being the ‘Transitional Mindset’ which is “this is what I’m doing today because I ‘have to’ but I really want to be doing X” where X does not necessarily represent a career within that organization (but could).

    Doing a ‘job’ for that person represents (for them) mundane day-to-day transactional activites as they dream of something else but if their true passion lies in X, inside or outside of the company, are there ways to leverage the other elements they are passionate about in their current role or provide advance exposure to them in terms of development paths? If they are not currently doing X as they’re not ready, this can help set the foundation. And are there parts of their current job function that if we isolate and they are able to excel in will better prepare them for that as well?

    1. @Shane – profound thoughts. Thank you. I just wrote about Liminal Leadership at HBR so the use of term “transitional mindset” is eerie. (in a good way) I wonder if the job-career-purpose continuum is actually a ‘liminal’ path. Now I’m really thinking. Much obliged.

  7. My comment touches on aspects of others listed above. I wonder what it takes to “change the mindset”? And – is this important in how they are defined? What will move people to consider a different perspective? I’d like to think it is development, engagement in learning and inviting someone to consider a different approach, or trying something new. In our work lives we are probably able to find times when we may have had each of the mindsets defined. Can you transition from one another? Does it take a leader to enable this change or is it inherent and just waiting to be awakened by someone or something?

    1. @Word from a Bird – Great question, and it’s something I’ve been diving in and out of in the book to answer. It is a partnership between the employee and the leader, however, I believe that a leader can create the type of environment for people to graduate from a job mindset to a purpose mindset, particularly if the leader isn’t trapped themselves in a career mindset. (i.e. a fixation on girth)

  8. I like it for its simplicity and it resonates with my own experience of great leaders, although I’ve seen purpose range from true personal purpose, to the definition you use above, to a customer-driven purpose which doesn’t connect to a workplace purpose directly.

    1. @Mike – Yes, I suppose I need to clarify in the book that it’s “Workplace Mindsets” that I’m trying to define (in the three types mentioned above) and that there may be some potential clashing with things like personal purpose, or customer purpose, or passions, etc. Thanks for chiming in.

  9. I like the simplicity of the definitions proposed and can see how they would overlap one another (think venn diagram) where a person might be in multiple mindsets at the same time depending on the personal situation that they are in – with the person who is simultaneously in all three being in a kind of “utopia” were the job aligns with the career and with a broader purpose. I think adding those definitions (Job – Career Mindset)(Job-Purpose Mindset)(Career-Purpose Mindset)and(Job-Career-Purpose Mindset) would probably flesh out most gaps.

    1. @Janice – thanks. I hadn’t thought of multiple mindsets at the same time. I have discussed regression (and advancement, obviously) with my research and interviewing, but not necessarily job, career and purpose mindsets being held at the same time. Pondering …

  10. Hey Dan:

    Always good to read more about your upcoming book. Would love to know if my other input have been helpful and will make it into the book. 🙂

    As for your definition of the Purpose Mindset, (“Passionate and committed to a meaningful & engaging workplace among all stakeholders”), I’d like to offer some personal perspective that I think will show the linkage between the other two.

    In my current role as Director of Learning Strategy & Design for the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, we serve nonprofits and humanitarian aid agencies (for free) all over the world to help them help more people. Based on this life-changing career move, here is the definition of a passion mindset I would offer to you…

    Passion Mindset: Internally motivated to work in a role that prioritizes personal values over compensation or career growth.

    Hope that is helpful.

    Bob Nutting

  11. Hi Dan
    I’ve recently joined the public sector following 25 years in private industry. I’ve noticed the term “job” is used frequently to refer to governmental employment opportunities. In fact, I rarely hear the term “career” at all. In private industry, “career” was used frequently when referring to employment opportunities and educational opportunities (“career” development)

    “Purpose” is perhaps a term reserved for a certain segment of the working population and is as much DNA as anything. My view on this is that it relates to the individual who possesses it vs belonging to entire functional groups (eg healthcare providers) who, because of their service to others, should possess it. You can find purpose in most anything if you are the type of person who is open to it.

    My two cents 🙂

    1. @Andrea – That’s an interesting yet sage observation. I wonder if the progression in the public sector is from job to pension? Do you reckon, however, a leader in the public sector might assist a government worker to find his or her purpose, even if it’s the public sector? Do you think finding purpose in one’s place of work in the public sector can come if leadership isn’t involved?

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