Noble art or just a job?

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article We need to fight against the ‘Big Shrug Generation’ schoolof thought that work is simply a means to an endThe sister-in-law is 20 and everyone is asking her what she wants to do. Butlistening to all the jaded sloggers around her, whatever noble motives andthrilling intentions they started out with, disappointment seems to be theuniversal narrative of working life. Most are busy incubating suspicions that they are worth more, others are ona strict diet of self-blame for their lot in life; all are living for theweekend. The dream of a worthwhile job with variety, gym membership and eccentriccolleagues, seems to inevitably dissolve during the daily grind. Her answer isto cut out the high hopes and avoid the let-down. She intends to do somethingshe expects will bore her to tears, but is steady, secure and money spinning.Law it is, then. Such worldliness in one so young. Despite better judgement, you findyourself suggesting pompous, headmasterly things such as: “well, what doyou feel passionate about?” (“nothing, really”), and “ifyou’re going to spend all those hours at it, you might as well enjoy it”(“yeah, but it doesn’t last”). It’s no good. The ‘Big Shrug Generation’ believes in Engels’ functionaltheory of work – using it as a means to an end, a temporary surrender ofliberty for the sake of material reward – but updated with millennial guile.She can point to multiple examples from people she knows to back up herargument; it’s just a job, they all say. I can think of one or two who aretruly passionate about their work – and even they have their reservations. So her plan has three steps: 1. Get dull job. 2. Work to finance fun. 3.Retire. It’s the kind of strategy you normally formulate after working for 15years, but maybe she’s precocious. I have no idea whether anticipating disappointment means you don’t suffer itlater or whether it merely bases a whole career on the expectation of it. But Ican see the attractions of the position. In one efficient stroke, work shrivelsin importance: it becomes purely an animal battle for status and cash, whileall the more human parts of life take place outside of it. Maybe many graduatesfeel the same way, but hide their feelings from the folk with clipboards fromGradfacts. And perhaps she’s right that work is over-sold. We expect too much from it,when we should really be more demanding of leisure time. As the sociologistRichard Sennett has written, “the spectre of failing to make something ofoneself in the world, to ‘get a life’ through one’s work… impels people to lookfor some other scene of attachment and depth.” The ‘other scene’ lacksspokespeople in our dutifully work-driven culture. Nevertheless, I still reckon the ‘just a job’ school of thought is wrong. Itis especially wrong among professionals and other workers with options. For a start, people underestimate just how much work shapes theirpersonality. Journalists, for example, with a generally detached, scepticalturn of mind, will soon take on the outlook of the publications they work for.I have a friend who once held The Sun to be the root of all evil, but came tosee it as the only trustworthy weather vane of the public mood after startingwork there. It is also true of employment lawyers. If they represent employers, theywill soon come to empathise with the managerial mindset and think plenty ofworkers are pushing their luck. There is no shame in this: it is the way weunconsciously seek to match our self-respect to our occupation. The point isthat jobs tend to leave a mark on people – just as people hope to leave theirmark on organisations. The phrase, ‘it’s just a job’ is often used as a kind of defensive tic – ameans of not seeming such a goody-goody. It does not exclude material ambition– you’re in it for the money, after all – yet it does exclude other ambitions,such as excitement, or fulfilment, or – less ambitiously – the avoidance ofself-betrayal. This is another good argument against ‘just-a-jobbers’: povertyof aspiration. It may be old-fashioned, but the theory that work can be life-enhancing,at least for the lucky or clever, is surely still worth preserving, even if theexperience falls short. If we were to draw up a model of ‘meaningful work’, we would factor in‘authority motives’ such as money and status, ‘craft motives’ such as satisfactionand success, and ‘moral motives’, dealing with job content, belief and calling.Whether we find work meaningful relies on the interplay of these sets ofmotives – between private aspirations and professional opportunities. The ‘justa job’ school only has authority motives to play with. That may be enough, butit seems unrealistically cynical. And finally, there is a roadworthy argument in the correlation betweenhappiness at work, and happiness in life. Admittedly, work is not the keydeterminant – family life, health and levels of debt are all more important.Yet, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, apositive psychological contract remains “strongly significant” in howgreat the chances are of being pleased with your existence. It is not just a job. Work is a highly potent force, whose influence spinsoff in all kinds of peculiar psychological directions. The trouble is thatafter a few years of selling your life to clients in six-minute chunks ofbillable time, you will have no inclination to think about it. Noble art or just a job?On 14 Oct 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. last_img read more

New York reports lowest virus death toll in two weeks

first_imgCuomo said 540 people had died in hisstate of 20 million inhabitants in the preceding 24 hours, and he suggested NewYork may now be on the downslope after a recent plateau in deaths. That would be the lowest total since 432deaths were registered on April 2, according to data from the authoritativeCovid Tracking Project. (AFP) NEW YORK state, the epicenter of thecoronavirus pandemic in the United States, has experienced its lowest one-daydeath toll in two weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.center_img Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Unites States, in a March 27, 2020 file image, says 540 people had died in his state of 20 million inhabitants in the preceding 24 hours. AFPlast_img read more