Work and Motivation
Work is done by people: what does work mean to them? Again, this question is more complex than it might seem. One aspect of the meaning of work for individuals is that by their occupations they are defined as people. In other words, when people want to place other people, to put them into meaningful categories, the first question they ask is “What does he/she do?” A person’s occupation can say a great deal about him as a person. “He is a systems analyst”, “She is a social worker” conjure up a whole range of expected attributes – ways of talking, thinking, behaving, etc. – in the minds of those who ask the question. Occupation’ is also a powerful determinant of social status – the prestige, positive or negative judgment a person has in the eyes of others. Occupations on the higher levels of the occupational hierarchy confer all kinds of benefits besides the high earnings that usually go with high status. Doctors are listened to with respect on all kinds of issues which have nothing directly to do with medicine, and probably can easier get their cars serviced or work done on their houses, since association with them also confers status. Road sweepers, sewage workers and kitchen hands, on the other hand, may be less likely to mention their occupations outside work because the status of these jobs is low. Indeed, they will probably be more successful socially if don’t mention what they do.
It has been argued that not having an occupation – usually a waged occupation – diminishes a person in the eyes of others. Do you work or are you just a housewife? The negative definition of a person without a paid occupation is clearly revealed in studies of the unemployed. Unemployed people often find themselves viewed by others as failures and deviants. Not having a paid job – especially for men but also, increasingly, for women – robs a person of a place
in contemporary society’s focal institutional framework, the formal economy. But it also robs them of a place in other forms of social and communal activities: the unemployed male withdraws from friendship with former workmates and associates, family relations come under strain (especially where a father feels he has failed his wife and children as a breadwinner) and, of course, leisure activities that cost money usually have to be abandoned.
But, in a stricter sense, for those who are in conventional paid employment, there is also “meaning” in the form of ways of defining work. It is closely correlated with the status and the income level of occupations. Professional employees value work as a way of life, as highly involving, challenging, stimulating and fulfilling. For instance, the work and non-work parts of their lives are not sharply demarcated, so that social and leisure activities overlap with paid employment. Conversely, the lower the occupation in the status/income hierarchy, the more likely an individual is to define work in material terms and often as a means to support an enjoyable part of his life. Work is sharply separated from other segments of life.
Task 1. Comment on the four main points of the text, express your opinion.
1. A person’s occupation can say a great deal about him as a person.
2. Occupation is a powerful determinant of social status – the prestige, positive or negative judgment a person has in the eyes of others.
3. Not having an occupation – usually a waged occupation – diminishes a person in the eyes of others.