Thursday, November 16, 2006

The distinction between a job and real work!

LEARNING & INNOVATION – November 16, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

The distinction between a job and real work!
(NOTE: This appeared on November 23, 2006 in the Manila Times)

There’s a lot to celebrate about life if we are in the habit of counting our blessings. They’re endless. Every day brings new blessings and new reasons to celebrate.

In the workplace, there are more reasons to celebrate. Taking time to celebrate is part of doing business. They represent a cultural high point and play a central role in the company’s success. Happy people are happy workers. Happy workers are more likely to be productive workers. Happiness is also infectious.

Tragedies, crises, calamities, likewise, make people gather more tightly in the depths of despair and uncertainties. People seek out healing events during desperate and difficult times. Not a time to celebrate, but a time to grieve through rituals that mend broken hearts, dreams and relationships. Sad people are sad workers. Sad workers can not focus beyond their miseries and might become unproductive workers. Misery loves company and before you know it you have a bunch of sad, sometimes angry, workers.

Simplistic, yes, but let’s dwell on that. Ours is a celebratory society. Our life is a big party waiting for a reason. Authors Deal and Key (Corporate Celebrations) asserts that celebrations infuse life with passion and purpose. “They summon the human spirit. They reattach us to our human roots and help us soar toward new visions. They touch our hearts and fire our imaginations. They bond people together and connect us to shared values and myths. Ceremonies and rituals create community, fusing individual souls with the corporate spirit. When everything is going well, ritual occasions allow us to revel in our glory. When times are tough, cere4monies draw us together, kindling hope and faith that better times lie ahead.”

The problem with our business leaders is that they are focused on the bottomline—profit and more profit. So we pamper our employees with out-and-out monetary rewards that feed their greed and self-indulgence. There’s this company who makes their employees work for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with only one day off each month when the whole company shuts down. One vice president says, they love the pay because they are able to buy things ahead of what they need. Gosh, these are young mothers and fathers with infants and toddlers left at home with a maid or an older relative. They are like OFWs because they are away from home most of the time. I suspect that when they are home one day in a month, they spend their time resting or sleeping to prepare of another month of long-hours of work. What kind of children are we raising here? What values are we transferring to them? These are the next generation Filipinos

Deal and Key write, “Workers feel used; bosses are burned out. Those who work for a living don’t always find their immediate situation quite so funny. According to authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner, the disciplines of credibility are sorely lacking, for example, appreciating constituents, affirming shared values, developing capacity, discovering your own self, serving a purpose, and sustaining hope. What has become of the human side of doing business? All businesses are people-driven and to tap their full potential, people need more than a paycheck. For too many people, work just isn’t fun anymore.”

People need meaningful work and work relationships. David Whyte, in The Heart Aroused: Poetry and Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, finds the experience of joy in work so incredibly rare that when we experience it, we’re not used to it. “Joy is a vulnerable state, fleeting, a corollary of loss. Loss is manifest in grief, in the daily struggle, at the price of family and personal time. Our personal lives are sacrificed on the altar of drab, joyless workplace. And we can never give enough. Organizations often demand more effort without creating more meaningful, motivating work. The prevailing equation is: Business = busyness.”

In The Reinvention of Work, Matthew Fox draws a crisp distinction between jobs and real work. “Jobs, meaningless work, derive from a mechanical paradigm—piecework where people perform a well-defined task purely for economic gain. They check their heads at the door, do what they are told, and eagerly await Friday’s paycheck.”

Let’s celebrate! Share with us how your organizations celebrate corporate milestones and the human spirit and send them to

(Moje is a management consultant on business excellence and human resource development.)

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