Philip Whiteley's Blog

July 14, 2011

A good job

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 7:34 am

Do you regard work as an unavoidable burden, whose misery is to be minimised or mitigated? Or is it a source of achievement, camaraderie and satisfaction? For most of us, the working life has presented a mixture. Talk to people about their working lives and the difference between the best and worst experiences are considerable.

An international Gallup survey in 2007 concluded that the single most significant change that would boost an individual’s well-being and quality of life was simply ‘a good job’. This was common across genders, ages, cultures and nationalities. And I doubt there would be much dispute over what ‘a good job’ consisted of: good or at least reasonable pay; a decent, fair-minded boss; tasks that are difficult enough to be a challenge yet within the individual’s capability, and which tap into the person’s natural abilities.

There should also be a sense of meaning; of social usefulness. This is something that novelists have grasped far more acutely than management researchers. Fyodor Dostoyevsky in the House of The Dead observed that even slave labourers worked harder when constructing something that would actually be used, than when they were asked to break up bits of wood that would be discarded. Ignacio del Valle, in his novel El Tiempo de los Emperadores Extraños, concluded that ‘there is no surer way to annihilate someone’s morale than to assign to him tasks that are completely without purpose’.

There are some striking things to observe about the good job: it’s not utopian, it delivers multiple social and business benefits, and yet it’s not what the business schools or trade unions aim for. Neither of the main institutional influences over the world of work makes creating ‘the good job’ a priority. Business orthodoxy is to regard work as a function delivered by a cost; trade union strategies have been to maximise that cost, by regulation or threat of strike action. This can result in an atmosphere of suspicion and regulated procedures, which few people relish on their way in to work in the morning.

The shared assumption that an ‘ordinary’ job can never be fun or interesting becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, yet there are ways of creating ‘the good job’ that help the business and the worker simultaneously. This is the secret of most successful organisations. They provide good jobs, and make this a priority.

Meet the New Boss

New Normal, Radical Shift

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