The Happiest People At Work Are The Ones Companies Can’t Do Without

New research shows the benefits of being in a mission-critical role.

Time to add a new buzzword to your business lexicon: Lynchpin. Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology shows that people in lynchpin positions within their organization are more likely to feel their work has meaning and less likely to experience burnout.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The study’s authors Lixin Jiang, assistant professor of industrial and organizational psychology at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Thomas Tripp, professor of management at Washington State University, and Tahira Probst, professor of psychology at Washington State University, explain exactly what a lynchpin position is in a piece about their findings in the Harvard Business Review.

Four factors define a role’s “lynchpinness,” according to the authors: criticality (how essential is your work is to your company’s mission?), non-substitutability (could someone in a different position do your work?), immediacy (if you were to stop getting your work done right now, how quickly would other work at the company come to a halt?) and pervasiveness (if you stopped working and no one picked up the slack, how many other activities at work would stop?).

The authors offer a simple real-world scenario of what a lynchpin role looks like. Imagine you’re a lawyer considering job offers from a law firm and a tech company. The law firm needs lawyers in order to operate; the tech company doesn’t need lawyers to build its product. That means the job at the law firm is a lynchpin role and the tech gig isn’t.

After surveying almost 700 staffers at a variety of companies, the researchers found that being a lynchpin “predicted more meaningful work, more emotional organizational commitment, and less job insecurity and burnout. We found no downsides.”

To rule out the possibility that people think they’re in crucial roles when they’re really not (because we all want to believe that what we’re working on is of the utmost importance), the researchers evaluated whether people generally agree on which roles within their company are lynchpins. Using tenure-track faculty and other employees at the same university as subjects, they found that everyone generally agreed that tenure-track faculty held the most essential roles. That suggests that people are pretty good at knowing whether their current job meets the criteria of a lynchpin position.

If you’re looking to make a career move, these findings suggest that you should weigh the essentialness of any potential role in addition to factors like compensation and company culture. Even though lynchpin roles generally come with greater responsibilities, this research shows they may also lower your risk of burnout because you feel invested in what you’re doing.

For companies that want to improve worker well-being, the authors suggest focusing on staffers who aren’t in lynchpin positions. “After all, employees in peripheral positions are less likely to see their work as meaningful, have lower levels of emotional attachment to the organization, and are more likely to feel job insecurity and report burnout,” they write. “Therefore, they may have the most to benefit from organizational efforts to enhance employee well-being.”

Read more on Harvard Business Review.

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