Why ‘mattering’ in the workplace doesn’t really matter


A buzzword that emerged from the recent Davos summit was "mattering", which is touted as the key to managing in the new hybrid work economy. It refers to the belief that you are important to others in your workplace and is seen as an existential imperative. Managers are urged to provide this sense of mattering by telling a compelling "mattering" story, according to a report published by the World Economic Forum. However, there is also the complementary and distinct construct of "anti-mattering", which involves feelings of not mattering and being marginalized. This buzzword has now been "nouned" and is part of the growing lexicon of management-speak.

A recent report introduced "The Anti-Mattering Scale," a tool for measuring feelings of insignificance towards others. The report suggests that high levels of anti-mattering correlate with depression, anxiety, and loneliness. However, the report's primary focus is on how mattering affects productivity, claiming that individual well-being fuels performance and that addressing barriers to mattering in the workplace is necessary for organizations to thrive. While improving employee happiness is important, attempting to "deliver mattering" through management techniques is patronizing and misguided. The key to making someone feel valued is to genuinely value them, not to use a shortcut or a score. Efforts to create mattering are, in fact, a contradiction in terms. Employees need to feel that their contributions are genuinely valued, which can't be achieved through artificial means. Mattering is earned by doing valuable work and enjoying the self-worth that comes with it. Making employees feel like they matter requires responsibility and genuine investment, not just an expensive middle manager.

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