Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Death of Job Satisfaction
I know that many people are dissatisfied with their jobs. I know I was at my last one, and that's why I quit. One thing that's been stuck in my head lately is the idea that people are unhappy at their workplace because nobody really has anything they can take pride in any more. Bear with me here...

It used to be at the end of the workday you'd have something to show for it. A roof put on a house. 500 shirt collars sewn on. 300 cars down the assembly line. An entire acre plowed.

But today there's very little tangible at the end of the work day. Most people I know work in the high tech community of Silicon Valley, where I worked myself for over a decade. And after your average 9 or 10 hour day, what do you have to show for it? Nothing, really. Another day's progress towards a project that will take a year to see light of day and be obsolete the day after it debuts. The delivery of words on a web page that will only be in existence for 24-hours. Four meetings for projects that may never come off.

People today don't have job satisfaction because, in many ways, there's no satisfaction to be had. You can't head home for the night thinking proudly of the engine you built or the supplies you delivered. Nothing is done in a day anymore. Everything people do is now tiny pieces of big puzzles. And (keeping the analogy going) you don't even get to put the puzzle together yourself. You work on the piece, pass it on, and someone else gets to tap it into place. So even the joy of getting that one piece in is denied to you.

I know many people still work the jobs where they can clock out and see the fruits of their labors. There are still people on assembly lines or construction sites. Still people who drive trucks and install kitchen cabinets. But for a huge chunk of the population, work now means just one day in an endless series of days.

No wonder people are unhappy.


Duke said...

Do you think what you point out here applies to life in general? Most people don't accomplish anything at home either. They may grocery shop but have to do it again in a couple of days. They might do laundry but it's dirty again almost immediately.

Most people's home life consists of doing repetitive chores, driving on endless trivial errands, followed by watching TV. Do you think they'd be happier if they spent time being productive rather than wasting all their time?

FinnyKnits said...

Totally. Exactly. Yes. You've nailed it.

Which is why I feel like I spend so much of my time assigning value and substance to the itty bitty steps toward my workish goals.

Which, don't you know, are all year long projects toward which I work on a daily basis.

And I LIKE my job. I really do. But I will be the first to say that I'm a victim of instant gratification. I crave it.

So, a lot of the time, I head home from working on a million little details toward my long term project goal and set out to accomplish *something* at home that will make me feel like my day was gratifying.

This may only mean cooking a decent meal or taking the kitchen scraps out to the composter or reading another chapter in my book, but it's something.

Decca said...

I think you're both right. But Duke, I have to admit that I get a great deal of satisfaction out of putting away the last load of laundry and knowing that I'm all caught up for a few days.

Finny, I'm with you. And that probably explains why you're so crafty and cook-y. When you have to put off work satisfaction for so long, coming home and making a skirt or cooking a wonderful meal really makes you feel like you've done something productive with your time.

Kittie Howard said...

Decca, I agree with your epilogue. I don't have to have instant gratification, not a residue from my generation, but I have to have goals and feel a sense of satisfaction when things come together. Hub and I have talked about the work place you described (he's in it) with practically your words. I don't know, just something loose out there, like Jell-O...looks great but but your hand in it and you've got a messy goo.

SkitzoLeezra said...

Studs Terkel interviewed a construction guy in his book Working where the worker said "everybody needed something to point to". Long after the highrise was complete, he would still point it out to his kids and say, "I helped build it."
I hate my job and think it's why I feel satisfaction from sewing and crafting in my off hours. While some may consider it a waste a time, I end the day with something to point at.