The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work
You can find more about this book in a piece I wrote after reading it.
the work ethic as the American dream: With virtue and hard work, anyone can make it.
Rybczynski tells us that the only other pastime in history that engaged people for that many hours was reading, during the eighteenth century. He believes that one reason why people spend more time watching television than reading is that reading requires a short regular daily habit, whereas television can be watched at irregular intervals.
What we call the Renaissance man is someone interested and accomplished in many areas and in control of who he is and what he does. The ideal of the Renaissance man stands in sharp contrast to the modern view. While we still admire well-rounded people, we tend to encourage and reward those who excel in one profession or area of work.
One of Studs Terkel’s interviewees observes: “Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people.”
But where do we get these “nurturing coaches” and “head coaches” who are willing to give up the power they have held in the past to stand on the sidelines? Do they take sensitivity training? Or do companies hire new managers with these traits? Nurturing, coaching, and the ability to refrain from using positional power are not skills or personality traits that people learn and develop in business schools.
Another result of modern management techniques was that they reshaped the social significance of work so that work slowly took over a larger slice of our lives. Lastly, while employees were busy having their “hot buttons” pushed, hanging from ropes in Outward Bound programs, and building teams and task forces, wages remained stagnant, while behind boardroom doors corporate executives patted themselves on the back with bonuses, stock options, and platinum parachutes.
because employees participate does not mean that their relationship to management is ethical. People can participate in fraudulent business practices or they may participate because they are afraid of losing their job or afraid of their manager.
Employers and the economy are fickle and you shouldn’t invest too much of yourself in the organization.
Guilds are one of the most important developments in the history of work, because they gave workers greater control over their lives. The guild’s main function was protection of the trade, protection of its members, and protection of the customer.
Work takes on greater importance in a society where people believe that they can master the material world and shape their own destinies, and less where they believe that they can’t.
This scene in Wilson’s novel still resonates with readers today because all of us at some time decide how much of ourselves we are willing to reveal to an organization. In the modern workplace it isn’t always easy to draw this line. This thin line is not about the quantity of work you will do. It is the boundary that you draw between your private life and inner self and the more public aspects needed to do your job. Some workplaces prefer that there be no line between the two. Deciding how much to give and how much to withhold can be confounding and confusing.
Not all romantic visions of work are fantasy; however, the ability to reap the personal, moral, social, and material benefits that work offers depends as much on where, for whom, and under what conditions people work as it does on what they actually do.
brings out what is best and most distinctive about being human—our abilities to think, feel, reflect, create, and learn. We need leisure to develop wisdom.
The preindustrial worker isn’t lazy; he or she doesn’t regard time as money and doesn’t see the point of working more than is necessary. Leisure is more valuable than money.
Power is a word unsaid—or only occasionally whispered—among the managerial ranks. Nonetheless, managers have power over the economic well-being of employees.
wish for time off to build wood-strip canoes, travel, or spend time with their families, but not to watch more television(even if that’s what they actually would do with time off).
Leisure is more than free time; it is freedom from need and the necessity of work, and an opportunity to do specific things.
But cohesive groups and teams aren’t always the best way to work or make decisions.
jobs should be designed so that they are not overly tedious or demeaning. And what we do at work shouldn’t inhibit our ability to pursue a good life outside of it.
work itself has moral and spiritual value and everyone is called by God to some kind of work in life. In this view, work is good no matter how menial and regardlessof pay.
Rybczynski argues that the weekend is not a place to escape work, but a place to create meaningful work and compensate for the lack of personal rewards on the job.
While work was no longer disparaged by the Church, the key social distinction between “respectable” people and the rest of society still rested on who did manual labor and who did not.
The idea of worthy work is subjective in the sense that hope is a potential that people have, but may or may not actualize. Not everyone gets to use the object that they make. But Morris’s point is that if they did, they would take pleasure in using or owning it.
The names of the things we work with and the terms we use to talk about work form a conceptual map of the workplace.
The word work is not only a kind of activity but a set of ideas and values related to that activity.
The accumulation of wealth was a sign that you were among God’s chosen. Laziness and poverty indicated that you probably were not.
The principle of freedom is at the heart of this relationship and is fundamental to how we think about work—freedom to work, freedom at work, and freedom from work.
Psychological tests, like horoscopes and magazine quizzes on sex appeal, promise to shed light on the inner self. The problem is that when one takes these tests at work, self-knowledge comes at the price of self-exposure and perhaps unfair pigeonholing. While many things have changed since Whyte’s time, his general critique of the corporation probably still holds true, but most employees either don’t care or simply accept these tests as part of the job.
We wish we didn’t have to work so that we could enjoy what the market has to offer us in terms of toys, vacations, and other amusements—all of which cost money.
We live in a paradoxical culture that both celebrates work and continually strives to eliminate it.
some people will always prefer to be on their own rather than at work. For them, work truly is pay for lost freedom, as much as employers want them to believe that they are paid for their “value added.”
When I look at the historical big picture, I am perplexed at the domination of life by paid employment at a time when life itself should be getting easier.
Nonetheless, it took about a thousand years for the idea of work to ascend in priority from Benedict’s ideal of “prayer and work” to the Protestant notion of “work and prayer.”
The Rule of St. Benedict, written in 528, may well be the oldest and most continuously used management guide in Western history.
Perhaps the demand for meaningful work grows because we see the supply shrinking.
“The chief purpose of business entertaining is to confuse people into applying social standards, such as loyalty regardless of merit, to business dealings.”
Ideally, professionals have jobs, but they don’t do jobs.
Taking the plunge into meaningful work is risky:
although work can ennoble us, wear us down, or make us rich, it is leisure that perfects us as human beings.
By “de-job” Bridges means that people in organizations have to get rid of the fragmented idea of work expressed by the word job.
Job is the word that best refers to the activity of economic beings whose work consists of specific tasks done in order to buy thethings they want and need to live. In contrast, the definitions of work, labor, toil, and drudgery refer to the positive and negative characteristics of these activities, regardless of whether they are paid or not paid. The meaning of the actual work we do every day and the meaning of work itself in our culture may be different, but they are intertwined. The first is about one’s own experience of work and the second is about work’s cultural meaning and value.
Today, time measures and structures tasks, rather than tasks measuring and structuring time.
The man at work became the man at home. In this case the integration of work and life that Mills applauds in the nineteenth century is disastrous in the twentieth. Work, as Mills describes it, ruins rather than enhances home life and life in the community.
Perhaps now, more than ever, young people need to take Aristotle’s advice and study the liberal arts so that they can learn how to make life choices. We have let work dominate us because it organizes our lives and it has obvious built-inrewards. But one can only marvel at the possibilities for work and life once those who “long for something more” figure out what that “something” is and choose to pursue it.
consequence of removing boundaries of time and location from work is removing the wall between work life and home life, between organization time and self time.
there is something to be said for doing nothing and hanging out with one’s friends. While there may be the potential for trouble, there is also the potential to learn how to enjoy life on one’s own terms and not those of the consumer market.
Did TQM and the management innovations before it make work better for people? In other words, did work become more enjoyable, meaningful, profitable? Did these new systems create an environment of trust? Did they deliver on all that they promised—empowerment, training, the joy of being a team member?
the amount of control people believe they have over the world around them influences the meaning of work in a culture. Work is important if we believe that we have the ability to control our future. The reverse is also true. As William Julius Wilson said, work gives people self-efficacy, and as William Morris observed, worthy work gives us hope. Without a belief that humans control and take responsibility for the economy, and that individual effort at work makes a difference, there is little reason to care about work.
Howard portrayed the brave new workplaces as organizations where emotions and power relationships are tricky because management cloaks the hierarchy in friendly, surface egalitarianism and achieves control over work through domination of meanings, values, and feelings.
Aristotle’s concern about people who focus their lives on working to make money was shared by Aesop and, as we shall see, later by the Catholics and Protestants, albeit for different reasons.
One of the first things that Americans ask when they meet someone new is, “What do you do?” Europeans used to consider this a rude question, but they too are changing.
Since the work ethic of Calvin and Franklin did not come naturally to most people, it was conveyed to children through stories.
The great advantage of a strong corporate culture was that it was an all-inclusive, self-regulating social system. The disadvantages included the fact that it could be oppressive and resistant to change. But perhaps the greatest downside to it was that employees became increasingly dependent on work to fill needs—e.g., for friendship—that they might otherwise have filled outside of work. Hence, if you lost your job, you lost much more than your work and income.
It is ironic that most students today pursue a liberal arts education so that they can get a job, when ideally it was meant to teach them how to use their leisure, not how to work.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, acedia is a kind of sadness or inability to find joy in spiritual work and doing good works.
Employers wanted trust, loyalty, and commitment from employees, but many employees knew that their employers were no longer willing or able to reciprocate.
have discovered that the “great job” that they worked so hard to get wasn’t what it was trumped up to be. Work was cutting into life outside of work. Life outside of work had more to offer than life at work.
Aristotle believed that leisure was necessary for human happiness.
Today we understand sloth as laziness or disinclination to work. But that was not the original meaning of acedia. It was neither a condemnation of laziness as we understand it, nor an affirmation of the value of work. Sloth wasn’t about not working, it was about not caring.
having meaningful work energizes one’s life as a whole. That is the most distinctive thing about it. In this respect the experience of meaningful work and the elevated notion of leisure that we have been discussing are almost indistinguishable from each other.
Whether life makes work better or work makes life better depends in part on which is more important. For some, work is simply the means of making a living; for others, it is that and an end in itself.
It takes tremendous faith to overcome the demoralizing impact of a tedious dead-end job that offers no hope of a better life. Unemployment not only destroys hope, but it destroys the faith that we had in organizations and the social and economic system. Not everyone wants meaningful work. Many people just want to be treated with respect and to earn a decent living.
one should perform one’s work to the best of his or her abilities,
This is an era when life should be filled with all sorts of rewarding activities. Yet many find themselves caught up not only in long hours of work but in debt, and suffering from stress, loneliness, and crumbling families. Why? In part because we always want more, in part because we don’t realize that we have choices.
Does life have a point if you live like an ant, working and accumulating things until you are aged and feeble? and Given the freedom to choose, what should we be doing with the time allotted to us in life?
But not everyone exercises this freedom upon reaching such a goal, and most people don’t make it.
Our most beloved picture of work came from the Renaissance: thatof work as creation.
if you give people information and a say in how to improve their work, they can produce impressive results. The fact that managers are constantly amazed by this tells us something about the respect that they have had for employees.
professions have become nothing more than a way to make a living. As a result of this they have not only lost the privileges of professions, but they have also abandoned the moral virtues that were just as much a part of crafts and professions as skill.28
said that “business entertaining” is an oxymoron. It is neither business nor is it entertaining.
For example, as late as the early seventeenth century, the working-class people of England seldom ate meals at regular times.15 Life in preindustrial days was a bit like the life of a college student—irregular eating and sleeping, intermingled with intense drinking, partying, and all-night work sessions.
Both Martin Luther and John Calvin wrote extensive commentaries on the Book of Genesis in which they interpreted work as God’s commandment to us, not his curse on us.
we put our happiness in the hands of the market and our employers.
the most hated and unnatural way to make money is through usury and interest. Money should be used for exchange, not for the breeding of more money. Those who believe they should spend their lives working at getting or not losing money are, according to Aristotle, “intent on living only, and not upon living well.”7 People who are consumed with getting wealth use everything as a means to wealth. They are not able to enjoy anything for its own sake, which, as we saw earlier, was Aristotle’s definition of a leisure activity.
There is something dishonest about an organization where workers create profits for the company and get a party, while senior management receives huge bonuses and stock options. This is the winner-take-all mentality. Those at the top take the lion’s share of rewards, and the gap between those at the top and those in the middle and bottom of organizations and society grows.
The equation of hard work and a better life is more difficult to see when we work for other people, because in doing so we give up control of what we do.
The ant lives for the future, but doesn’t always know what to do when he reaches it. The merit of the ant’s life plan is that his frugality saves him from want and prepares him for emergencies. But money also ensures freedom.
I argue that work often promises to contribute more to our lives than it can deliver.
Today employers know they can’t promise much to employees, especially when they must promise so much to stockholders. They know they can’t get trust and commitment with smoke and mirrors. Nonetheless, most still try.
By examining the way we use and define the word work, we will see how our own use of the word isconnected to the collective use of it over time.
you can play at your work only if two conditions are met: first, you don’t have to work, and second, you can work anywhere, anytime, and any way you want.
In theory at least, if you set up a society for Aristotelian leisure, it might provide people with the same psychological and social needs as a society set up for work. In an Aristotelian utopia there would be no idle minds, hence no workshops for the devil.
The stories in the readers showed how children with the right character got ahead, while the morally weak and undisciplined went away empty-handed.
when people have to choose between more free time and more spending, most choose more spending.
we tacitly assume that activities called work are less desirable than other sorts of occupations, since they keep you from doing other things.
even with an engaged workforce and company educational programs, work sometimes cannot compete with the lure of really free time,
Aristotle’s ideal life of leisure is not an idle life, but a socially, physically, and mentally active one.
Unless you block out the world around you (as many people do), it’s difficult to enjoy leisure in a work- and consumer-oriented society that sometimes seems to be falling apart. Leisure is free, self-determined, reflective, and gratifying. It is what you really want to do, when you want to do it. Leisure doesn’t cost money, it can be hanging out with friends or family, reading a novel, or just daydreaming. It is a time in which we do those things that are valuable to us and worth doing. Because leisure is a time when we are free, it is also a time when we are most ourselves. Without leisure we might lose track of who we are. Without leisure we may find it more difficult to make sense of our lives.
Empowered, so-called, on the job, they are powerless over their employment itself.
Work provides for our material needs, but is work itself a human need?
Why is it that the most democratic nation in the world does nothave the most democratic workplaces in the world? Perhaps the answer to this question lies in national characteristics.
Whyte recommends that people fight the organization by tricking it or simply failing to capitulate to its demands.
In their view, vagrancy and unemployment were not the result of economic conditions; they were the result of a personal moral deficiency.
From ancient times to the early middle ages, hard work didn’t get you into heaven, demonstrate your moral goodness, endear you to your neighbors, or promise insight into the meaning of your life. Over time, work emerged from a morally neutral and somewhat negative idea to one that is rich with moral and social value, and fundamental to how we think of ourselves.
We can endure the worst of jobs, if it is reasonable to hope that the job will get us where we want to go or at least feed us along the way.
The other difference between job and work is that work is an activity done with or without pay, whereas the word job has a specific connection to work for pay or profit.
If we have indeed traded freedom in the workplace for freedom in the marketplace, then one way to regain control is to restrict our freedom in the marketplace. Living below our means may not be as much fun as living above them, but it does allow more flexibility in deciding where we work and how much we work. Debt and desire can tether us to a job that we hate and devour the time that we might spend doing something we like.
Meaningful work was primarily about the social and moral qualities of a job, not the particular work that one did.
With industrialization workers were treated like replaceable parts. Today they feel like obsolete or disposable parts.
One unforeseen problem with giving employees real power, based on an understanding of the business, is that they become frustrated and angry when management makes stupid strategic decisions.
Little did Calvin know that despite his warnings against luxurious consumption, the work ethic would, for some, mutate from the belief that we were born to work into the belief that we were born to shop.
Work feels very different when you can take it or leave it.
Spontaneous sociability is operating when people work as a team, not because management tells them that they are a team, but because they trust each other and agree to work together toward a common goal.
Holidays are more than days off; they are supposed to be public celebrations. But the public can’t celebrate together if most people are working.
An important part of what it means to act “professional” is to have strong control over one’s emotions.
The misery of work is frequently caused by others, whereas the joy we usually find on our own. That is why, when people dream of their ideal jobs, they often dream of working for themselves.
meaning of life is a balance between living for the present and for the future. Russell and a number of other philosophers argue that the meaning of life is about how we should live, but Russell asserts that the hardest part of living is living for today.
It is a frame of mind or attitude of imaginative people who love ideas.
the Church had become more interested in a person’s disposition to sin, which was rooted in concrete social and work-related situations.
Life would be empty if we could not engage in activities that were good in themselves and not driven by necessity.
The Grasshopper, Suits speculates that if we lived in a utopia where no one had to work, we would eventually invent games that resembled work.
People don’t mind toil or drudgery if it serves a purpose and they believe in the purpose it serves.
the worst thing that we can do is relegate religion to the workplace. As we have seen, ever since the 1950s work has claimed more and more of employees’ lives.
By the twelfth century, surnames that identified a person with his or her work came into use. Consider the number of common last names that derive from trades, like Baker, Carpenter, Thatcher, Smith, Weaver, Goldsmith, and Cook.
Suits believes that in his utopia work activities would become play because people would freely choose to perform them, for their own sake and not for some outside goal.
So the more pertinent question is not, What is meaningful work? but rather, Is it possible for organizations to provide meaningful work? Most important, on a personal level, What is the relationship between meaningful work, a meaningful life, and happiness?
Cultural values such as independence, freedom, and equality make the idea of working for others almost “un-American.” This does not mean that Americans don’t like to help each other; they just like to do so on their own terms.
Some people actually enjoy taking the Myers-Briggs test because it tells them something about themselves. It puts them on a map and makes for good conversation. Sometimes companies get carried way with the results of these tests.
Today we tend to feel that working in an office is better than working in a coal mine, regardless of which worker makes more money. Even our language suggests that it is a privilege to work sitting down. We respect our chairman, honor the throne, seek a professor’s chair, and run for a seat in Congress.18
strong corporate culture removed uncertainty from employees’ lives by giving them what they needed: structure, a value system, and pride in belonging to a company of which they could be proud. However, some of the so-called problems that employees had weren’t clearly explained.
Rybczynski remarks that there is generally so little mental involvement in TV watching that it should really be called TV staring.
Friendly, caring managers didn’t necessarily negate the lines of power and authority in an organization, they masked them.
“Without trust, there can be no betrayal, but more generally, without trust, there can be no cooperation, no community, no commerce, no conversation.”8
Honest work means telling painful truths and preparing others for them. Basically, it’s “treating workers like adults.”
In their book, as in the TQM books, its not clear how these managers are transformed or why employees are no longer afraid of their bosses, but the underlying belief seems to be that if you change the system, people in it change too. Yet more often than not you need to change the people who run the system.
The work ethic that emerged from the Benedictine legacy applied Christian spiritual virtues to crafts and other vocations. It encouraged people to work with care and diligence, but was still wary of the riches that came from work. These values of quality and craftsmanship were shaped and enhanced by the craft guilds that later emerged in twelfth-century Europe.
We credit Calvin and Luther with the idea of work for work’s sake and the abhorrence of rest and pleasure. This is but one of the many renditions of what is called the work ethic. For Calvin, work was a token of grace and the means of salvation.
Groups, he said, simply give order to the administration of work.
The ancients saw work as a necessity and a curse. The medieval Catholic Church bestowed on work a simple dignity; the Renaissance humanist gave it glamour. But the Protestants endowed work with the quest for meaning, identity, and signs of salvation.
The way to wealth for Franklin was through prudence, industry, and frugality. Good character was necessary for success. In his autobiography Franklin lists eleven virtues that one needs for success: temperance, silence, order, resolution, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. He preached a worldly asceticism, but he also believed that money was a means to an end—and that end was the freedom to enjoy life.7
Perhaps the reason that the unemployed do not have leisure is because they have no work. They have no free time because they have no constrained time.
Time, like necessity and freedom, is intimately connected to the meaning of work.
the major source of our economic problems over the past twenty years is in the way most U.S. corporations treat their employees and the way that they have maintained their bloated bureaucracies.
Slavery is a pejorative for work—it signifies human degradation, work at its worst.
The organization man has given way to the team player, the man in thegray flannel suit to the men and women in Nikes. Who or what will they be next?
How did paid work get such a good reputation in our culture and why is its stature growing in other cultures?
Work provided a means of discovering and creating oneself.
The economy is on a roller-coaster ride. Of all the institutions in society, why would we let one of the more precarious ones supply our social, spiritual, and psychological needs? It doesn’t makes sense to put such a large portion of our lives into the unsteady hands of employers. Most people have come to realize this, but they still do it.
Franklin argued that wealth was morally justified because it benefited society and would bring happiness to individuals. He emphasized work as a social obligation, not a religious duty.
major difference between amusement and this more elevated idea of leisure. Mass entertainment we can pick up or drop at any time without longing or regret. It is enjoyable, but has no lingering meaning for most people.
according to Wilson, having a job means more than just meeting material needs. It also satisfies various psychological and social needs such as discipline, connectedness, regularity, and self-efficacy. But is work the only way to fill these needs? Why can’t the unemployed fill these needs from leisure?
It is because they are realists. They have watched as the middle-aged men in suits lost their jobs. They know the economy is, while seemingly robust, always precarious. A “get it while you can” attitude makes perfect sense in this environment.
This is why, in a world where job security is increasingly fragile, we need to move away from entrusting important elements of our welfare and social life to employers.
When commitment is reduced to time at work, loyalty to something one pays for, and trust to a legal contract, these terms are emptied ofmoral meaning and the workplace becomes morally bankrupt.
Thoughtful people might constantly reevaluate their values and priorities in life. Lastly, what do Deal and Kennedy mean by the so-called confusion between ethics and morality? Is individual morality getting in the way of corporate ethics?
Is the life we have now worth what we are giving up for it? Meaningful work is rare, but is out there to be found either in a paid job or in our free time, if we really want it. Not everyone wants it, finds it, or considers the same things meaningful. A work-dominated life is fine if it is a conscious choice and makes one happy. But if it doesn’t, then we should start thinking of how to fit work into our lives instead of fitting our lives into our work.
For the ancients, Prometheus was a trickster who doomed humanity to hard labor. By the Renaissance he was a hero who had allowed mankind to seize hold of fate. The value of work grew as more people began to feel that they could control their lives rather than wait around for divine providence.
there may be something wrong with work that so zaps us of our strength and resources that that’s either all we feel like doing or all we can think of doing.
When employees sense or know that the company will drop them in a heartbeat just to stay competitive, loyalty is absurd. Loyalty is a reciprocal concept.
feel the need to work because of our training and moral conditioning, not because of any inborn disposition. If this is the case, then there is nothing “natural” about work.
Leisure is a special experience. It consists of activities that are freely chosen and good in themselves.
For some, meaningful work is interesting and satisfying; for others it is work that contributes to society. Still others want work that gives meaning to their lives.
We do things with time—we spend time, waste time, save time, sell time, make time, and sometimes do time. Most of all, we live under the shadow of the idea that time is money.
Today we worryabout the lack of a consensus of values and the breakdown of urban and suburban communities. In the workplace there still is an increasing effort to build “teams” and emphasize the value of groups. No one seems worried about loss of creativity and submission of individual identity to group identity. Managers care more about the problem of the individual who isn’t a team player. Like so many of their predecessors, the majority of management theorists today believe that groups and teams are the foundation of all that is good and productive.
The content of leisure and work may also overlap in a positive way, especially when people like their work. Then we find the stockbroker who likes to gamble, the art teacher who likes to paint, the academic who enjoys lounging in a hammock reading journals. Some of us enjoy leisure activities that compensate for creativity, skills, or social interactions that we don’t exercise or take part in at work.
Work is an extraordinary word because it does so many different things. We do work and we go to a place called work. Work is something we have, something we own, and something we make.
noun and the verb work form a continuum between the doer and what is done. On the one hand work is necessary and restrictive of our freedom, while on the other hand it is purposeful and creative.
In an environment where employment is precarious, it is important for people to be connected to activities and organizations unrelated to work. In this way they build more stability into their lives.
Perhaps the most fundamental satisfaction that work offers is the satisfaction of earning a living, the satisfaction of getting what we need to stay alive.
The first and oldest is a principle of fairness and social obligation. Able-bodied people have a duty to provide for themselves.
He argues that when work dominates people they become neutralized, degendered, and subservient to the rules of the market. According to Keen, organizations that push people to work excessive hours destroy the fullness of manhood and womanhood.
too much worknot only interferes with teens’ schoolwork but can cause an “adjusted blandness” at a time when they should be curious, imaginative, and combative.21 This “adjusted blandness” is exemplified by the routine “have a nice day” patter of counter workers in fast-food restaurants.
Worthy work is objective, in the sense that most people would like to have jobs that offer adequate leisure, useful high-quality products, and the opportunity to exercise skill.
companies that used teams to increase quality and productivity did not share their gains with the teams, unless they were unionized. He also discovered that the companies that used teams tended to have more layoffs that those that did not.
Employment insecurity is the new way of life, even during times of low unemployment. Many workers have begun to rethink their commitment to employers, because their employers have changed their commitment to them.
close of the century the manager’s mantra is made up of “quality,” “commitment,” and “teamwork.” All of these approaches to management attempted to change and control the meaning of work in an organization.
The word job is usually used as a noun, “a job,” whereas work is almost equally used as a verb, “to work,” and a noun, as in “their work.” Rarely do we use the verb job,
The faster we work, the faster our time fills with new work. The faster we go, the lesstime we have.
Sometimes it’s almost embarrassing to admit that you aren’t busy or that you have plenty of time. After all, important people have little time, less important people more time, right?
In the first, work is a quest or a project with a goal—it has some point to it, beyond making a living. In the second view of time work is performed to make a living or taken on a day-by-day basis, but it has no direction or particular point to it.
This results in a vicious circle: employees desire more, management promises more, and the expectation for finding meaning in work rises. Both sides grope in the dark, searching for a workplace El Dorado.
Sometimes the reasons why we work are more important than the work we actually do. The experience of working to support a family or go to college may well be more satisfying than working for clothing and CD players, because the goals themselves are more lasting and meaningful.
The defining moral aspect of what it means to be a professional is dedication to the task, not the clock. When the institutions that employ professionals put intense time/money pressures on them, they can undercut the integrity of their work.
Technology changes the way we do work and the kinds of work we do, but it doesn’t radically alter what the word work means.
The irony was that the investigation found that all employees expressed simultaneously a love of and commitment to Pacific Bell and a mistrust of its managers.14 A survey of two thousand Pacific Bell employees concluded that top managers at Bell “blame the employees for the lack of productivity and are trying to make them think better; however, the Pacific Bell workforce already knows how to think.”15 These employees resented being told what to think.
The irony is that if job security is really rare, smart employers will have to start offering security provisions as a means of luring top talent into their organizations.
Work makes life better if ithelps others; alleviates suffering; eliminates difficult, dangerous, or tedious toil; makes someone healthier and happier; or aesthetically or intellectually enriches people and improves the environment in which we live. All work that is worthy does at least one of these things in some small or large way. Still, not all people will find worthy work personally meaningful to them.
so many desires and so many choices, some can’t or don’t choose how they want to live. Instead they let advertisers, employers, or the opinions of others choose for them. Yet if we are willing to make some trade-offs between an interesting or prestigious job, consumption, leisure, and security, we can gain control and possibly improve the quality of our lives. Of all these trade-offs, containing our desire to consume may be the most difficult, but also the most liberating. The seductive array of things that we can buy ties us to our jobs and often deprives us of our time.
Work may have a positive, negative, or neutral value for a religion or a culture, but within a culture different kinds of work will carry different spiritual, moral, and social values. Every society has its own prejudices against certain types of work.
The drive and motivation to work that come from inside a person can be far more powerful than outside forces. This is certainly true for the monk, who is driven by his spirituality.
The bee symbolizes a life of useful and rewarding work.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt said work provides us with the artificial world of things that are distinct from our natural surroundings. These things outlast us all. Hence, according to Arendt, the human condition of work is worldliness.20 John Locke distinguishedbetween the “work of our hands and the labor of our bodies” to separate man the maker (homo faber) from man the laboring animal (animal laborans).
The one good that came from the 1990s was that people began to see their jobs for what they were: first and foremost, economic transactions in a fickle global economy. People began to question the priority of work over other things in their lives. They began to wonder whether the time and energy that they had sacrificed for their jobs was really worth it.
Might we then say that any activity is work if it has a purpose?
The most lasting stricture of Luther’s and Calvin’s work ethic is the belief that people who work hard are good and those who don’t work or don’t work hard are morally inferior.
We have gone beyond the work ethic, which endowed work with moral value, and now dangerously depend on our jobs to be the primary source of our identity, the mainspring of individual self-esteem and happiness.
what are people afraid of at work? In their study of fear in the workplace, Kathleen D. Ryan and Daniel K. Oestreich found that people were usually afraid of retaliation, reprisals, and retribution. Other sources of fear are found in the things that people in the organization are afraid to discuss, or the “undiscussables.”43 According to Ryan and Oestreich’s survey of 260 people in twenty-two organizations, the boss’s management style ranked as the number one undiscussable; next came coworkers’ performance, and compensation and benefits.44 If people are most afraid of talking about a manager’s style of managing, then it may be very difficult to gauge what employees think about TQM, or any other management initiative for that matter. Increased productivity may be the result of factors that have nothing to do with “teamwork” and “coaching,” such as fear.
Freedom from fear, material needs, and commitments allows us the liberty to develop ourselves through leisure.
but it also makes the word work very broad, if it describes everything that is done with a purpose.
For Americans and non-Americans alike, meaning in work, leisure, and life is not something that is hand delivered. We must all go out and find it for ourselves.
Reengineering then, promises that work will become more varied and maybe more interesting—but only if you still have a job.
Without work we face infinite options about what we should do and what we should be. Also, people who can work but choose not to have to explain themselves to those who suspect the only reason they gave up good jobs and now choose not to work is that they are lazy or in some way deficient.
Our language is our world. Words designate the people and things in our experience and our ideas about them.
As a result, there are no strikes or protest movements; the only signs of discord are the Dilbert cartoons that grace the walls and cubicles of offices today. Employees haven’t been altogether honest with their employers about the way they feel, in part because they are afraid, in part because a growing portion of the workforce has become cynical.
Teams, even more so than cultures, can be a powerful form of social control. In a team, peer pressure from the group keeps everyone in line, pulling his or her weight. The team affects the individual in a more direct way than the larger culture of the organization.
businesses frequently reward the best engineers, teachers, or account executives with managerial or administrative positions. Some of these people don’t make good managers, but few turn down the prizes: more money, power, status, and freedom.
the average employed person in America worked 163 hours more in 1987 than in 1969. Women average 305 more hours of work than they did in 1969. The amount of free time fell nearly 40 percent since 1973, from twenty-six hours a week to slightly under seventeen.1
even though some workers may have to do a terrible job, the job itself should be structured so that they do not have to lead a terrible life because of their job.
rarely hear about cases in which employees complain about a company training program. That’s why the Krone program scandal is distinctive. Most employees are a captive audience and their success in the organization is contingent on playing the game and using the language of these initiatives.
For St. Benedict, work was not a job or a calling, but a kind of visible prayer.
The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work by Joanne B. Ciulla