Work is a four letter word which some in our society seem to want to group with other more infamous ‘dirty’ four letter words. The underlying assumption for many seems to be work is something to be avoided, a necessary evil which is at best tolerated unless you are lucky enough to win the lottery or find some other legal way to make a living.
Those with a work as punishment attitude seem to consider:
- Work is a form of punishment which should be avoided at every opportunity.
- Work is not good for you unless you are earning a huge salary with lots of perks and privileges
- Life is all about weekeknds and holidays with Wednesday being considered the dreaded ‘Hump Day’
- The idea of extending the pension age to 70 is anathema as it is extending the punishment
- ‘Work for the dole’ type schemes as harsh rather than a great opportunity to be productive and contribute
- (If religiously inclined) work is part of the “curse” on humankind after Adam and Eve’s ‘fall’ in the Garden.
How has work become so disconnected from purpose?
I have been fascinated by some of the chatter on Social Media around these kinds of issues recently. As someone who likes to understand where ideas come from, I am curious as to how work has become so disconnected from purpose for so many people.
In almost every workplace the work exists because that company is fulfilling a human need of some kind. So, no matter what your job, no matter how seemingly routine or menial, it serves a useful purpose.
For me there are at least two key issues here:
- Leadership – Employers and managers need to learn the leadership skill of casting vision, which will help employees see how their work is making a difference in someone else’s life every day. In my experience most people have a deep desire for their life to count, to make a difference. And vision motivates whereas a list of tasks on a job description does not.
- Self Understanding – When asked “what is your passion?’ most people do not have an answer. Our education system must be re-tooled to include assisting young people to know their gifts and to stir their passion. If someone is in a position for which they have little passion and no natural skill they are always going to struggle and sometimes, despite the best leadership in the world, they will see their work as punishment.
It is good for human beings to work. It is good for a person, for a family, for a society when people see work as a good thing and have a mind to work.
I believe that if we can assist people to better understand themselves, and teach leadership skills to employers and managers we will start to eliminate two of the reasons why many workers see work as punishment.
A workplace which has a great atmosphere and team culture established through good leadership skills will be a place that is productive and enjoyable. Workers that can use their gifts and passion with a sense of purpose related to their work will have a sense of dignity and pride in what they do.
Then, if you are healthy and want to work, you may be willing to delay retirement even past 70 years of age (79% of 70 – 74 year old report they are healthy and would like to work at least part time – SMH May 2014).