Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
The other day I was talking to a disability expert who made an observation that claims for disability keep on rising every year. We wondered whether our attitude towards work, early retirement and disability is changing.
In view of the ever-rising rate of relocation, job changes, downsizing, lay offs and job losses, does work still define who we are?
Is work still a source of pride and satisfaction as it once used to be? Have we started preferring recreation and relaxed life to hard working and productive life?
Have some started considering disability as the first option rather than the last?
How our work attitudes are formed and what do young people entering college or the world of work think about work?
We like to think that we choose to work because work offers us an outlet for our interests, abilities and values and is important for our future. However, a large number of young people today feel that work is by and large depressing and dull.
In communities, where sustainable work is not readily available, among many adults, there is a growing sense of alienation from work and pessimism about future. It is likely that they will pass on this despair and pessimism to the younger generation. Those teens may not expect to be successful in their work lives even before they enter the world of work.
For other teens, the anxiety may mobilize them to work harder in school and engage more actively in the school-to-work planning. Understandably, they are more likely to succeed.
If children going though middle high and high school don't view education as relevant to their future work, they are more likely to be disengaged from school. They have to first be convinced about the relevance of education for their future before they can be engaged in the educational task at hand.
The majority of young people view work as a means for earning money and accomplishing such tangible goals as food, car, shelter and other necessities or comforts. A typical view of the workplace is a place where you go and you get paid for what you do.
Other teens view work as a means for not only providing for themselves but also for their family. That view is typically expressed as, "I must work so I can support myself and my family."
There is a small minority of teens who view work as a service to the community. They feel that they will work to help their community and in the process earn money for themselves and their family.
There is still another group of teens that views work as a means of accomplishing a desired goal. They acknowledge that work is important for meeting the basic needs but work or career is also important in order to achieve something that is precious to them and what they really want. These young people realize that they have to work hard and perhaps harder than others because they want more out of their career than just the basic provisions.
Work is viewed by most as "labor." People view work either as manual labor or as mental labor. Understandably, academic achievement is more relevant to the latter than to the former.
Work is also a means to escape and/or occupy oneself. For this group, work is something that's good for keeping them occupied and save them from boredom and monotony. At last, boredom serves a positive purpose! Thanks t boredom, you might think to yourself, "I don't want to get bored sitting home all day. When you work, you make money and you can get out of the house for the rest of the day."
Here is a response from a "winner." You know this one is going to be a winner because they give the following reason for work, "Work is something you love doing. Something that you wake up every morning for and can't wait to do." Contrast the above view with this: "What is work? Work is a boring stupid thing you do for the rest of your life."
Some have "fair to midland" view, "Work can be stressful and even a sort of punishment. But depending on what you do, work can be fun."
Some view work as a part of self-development and say, "Work is a way to develop maturity and responsibility." You can see that a person with that attitude is most likely to be responsible at work.
The relationship between money and work is an interesting one. Some think that they could never stop working before there will never be enough money to feel financially secure. Others think that once they can meet their financial goals, they don't see the reason for working afterwards.
Still others think that they would continue to work even if they had all the money they could ever want.
Copyright 2004, Mind Publications
Posted August 2004