New York Times Magazine highlights Ross research on finding purpose in work

March 1, 2019

Essay examines the phenomenon of successful people who remain unhappy

Jane Dutton

The New York Times Magazine recently published a special issue on “The Future of Work,” and one article causing some buzz — titled “Wealthy, Successful, and Miserable” — highlights research conducted by Michigan Ross Professor Emerita Jane Dutton.

The article, by Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Duhigg, explores widespread unhappiness among American workers, particularly those who are most successful on paper. He discusses the importance of finding meaning in your work and highlights research conducted by Dutton, the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Business Administration and Psychology, and her colleague Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale.

Amy Wrzesniewski

The researchers studied why certain janitors at a large hospital showed more engagement than others, finding that they viewed their jobs as a form of caregiving.

“To some, the moral might seem obvious: If you see your job as healing the sick, rather than just swabbing up messes, you’re likely to have a deeper sense of purpose whenever you grab the mop. But what’s remarkable is how few workplaces seem to have internalized this simple lesson,” Duhigg writes.

This article was originally published as a Ross Thought in Action article.