Drucker apparently suggested that an investigation of workers' job attitudes was immoral and unjustified. He believed that it was nobody's business but the worker themselves, how they felt about their job.
Herzberg went on to make an ethical justification for an examination of workers' job attitudes, and specifically, the research project he and colleagues had undertaken. He suggested that all questions as to the ethical nature of their work had been settled – to their own satisfaction.
Later he thanked the leaders of oil, steel and manufacturing corporations for their financial support.
Scientific work will always be used by unscrupulous individuals and corporations to manipulate conditions to their advantage, and I don't think that will change. But Drucker made an important point nonetheless, and it has occupied my mind recently.
Rarely, I suspect, does funding to third-level institutions and research laboratories come from sources without vested interests. Corporations fund research that helps improve the lives of people, but the opposite is also true. The benefactor wants something from the exchange.
With this in mind, to what ends are the actions of people good or bad?
Who gets to decide what qualifies?
It's impossible to answer these questions ultimately, but when in an exchange, we get a feeling when something is not right.
When the pensions official suggesting how you should invest your hard earned cash, for example, throws you that unsubstantial smile. You can't say for sure he's riding you, but you suspect it.
Most of us know when we're being sold to, and to our regret, sometimes we ignore our gut feeling.
So for work, and the study of people at work, I have had some reservations.
The results showed that people are made dissatisfied by bad environment, the extrinsics of the job. But they are rarely made satisfied by be good environment. They are made satisfied by the intrinsics of what they do.Frederick Herzberg, 1959
I'm more interested in the individual than I am in groups or organisations of people. When we generalise, we can often take care of the needs of the majority. However, what we omit are often the people that really need help.
Social science for the most part generalises, and that's fine. However, for me, the real impact is felt face to face. It's in the detail of personal relationship. It's in the words a person uses. It's found in answers to the question; how to you feel?
Last November I began my final year research study, which was focused on the differences in wellbeing as experienced by directly employed people and self-employed people in the workplace.
I have been on both sides of the employment divide and know how it feels. I suspected that many others felt the same as I have, but I needed gather some facts.
So I asked my contacts, and others, to complete an anonymous survey on job-specific well-being. The survey received 230 responses, and the data was very interesting. But the most telling information came from the individual testimony.
Here's a summary of what I found.
1. No Group Was Satisfied With Work
Then, according to their employment status, i.e. directly employed or self-employed in creative arts or corporate places of work, and based on their responses to five questions which they answered using a scale from ‘strongly disagree' to ‘strongly agree', I placed them in their groups.
All groups were either ‘slightly dissatisfied' or ‘dissatisfied' with work.
2. Subjective Happiness Levels Were Below The Average
To measure subjective happiness, I used the Subjective Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999) 4. I looked at responses based on the groups as I mentioned above.
Results for all groups showed that subjective happiness, how the individual rated their internalised feeling of happiness, was lower than that of the average person.
3. Supervisory Responsibility Makes Little Difference To Wellbeing
I wanted to explore if those who have responsibility for other workers; staff, subordinates, etc., have a higher or lower sense of wellbeing than those who do not. Despite previous research highlighting that self-employed people with supervision for others are lower on similar measures (Warr, 2008) 5, my results here found no difference.
In other words, for the people who took part in the study, their job-specific well-being was not influenced by responsibility for other workers. This is not necessarily the case for individuals as the results were based on group mean results.
4. Choosing Self-Employment Made No Difference To Wellbeing
I wanted to see if people who chose self-employment were any happier in work than those who were forced into it through, say, job loss. I found no difference.
Again here, results ran counter to previous research. In other words, whether the respondents chose to be self employed or were forced into it through personal financial circumstances, they were equal on the measure of well-being.
The meat in the sandwich of all of this came in the form of personal testimony – the words that people used to describe their feelings about work.
Some people flat out proclaimed to love their work. They expressed enjoyment, happiness and positive relationship with work and represented 53% of responses.
Participants used words such as “grateful”, “fortunate” and “blessed” to describe their relationship with work. As respondent 176 expressed it; “I feel honoured that I get to serve other people”. Participant 189 suggests; “I know I am possibly in a rare situation as an employee but I do very much enjoy my work”, and participant 10; “I'm fulfilled by my work, it is corporate in nature but it has meaning”.
Others were not so positive in their response.
These responses represented what I called ‘a transactional relationship with work' and accounted for 42% of responses. Respondents used terms such as “tedious”, “necessary” and “pays the bills” to describe their feelings about work.
As participant number 44 put it; “It’s a grind, only doing it cos it pays the bills and hopefully provide a starting block for the kids when the time arises”. Participant 166 reported; “I work to live, I don’t live to work”, and participant 119 said work is; “A means to an end to get what I want”.
I have come to realise that my suspicions were correct; many people are at odds with their work. And in a field of study that is work psychology, there seems to be an overwhelming focus on the human being as a commodity.
Industry and commerce are not concerned primarily for the human being, the person, the individual. Rather, they are concerned mainly with groups of people and their productivity.
This is not my motivation.
People have become disenfranchised with work and see it as a means to a financial end. It is that thing they do in order to make time to live. So, my work from here on must be focused on the person, the individual at work.
Of course, that involves understanding how groups of people work and how they feel in organisations and so on. But from an applied perspective, my focus is on the individual.
That's the way I'm going.
- Herzberg, F. (2017). Motivation to work. Routledge.
- Bérubé, N., Donia, M., Gagné, M., Houlfort, N., & Koestner, R. (2007, June). Validation of the satisfaction with work scale. ASAC (Vol. 28, No. 5).
- Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of personality assessment, 49(1), 71-75.
- Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social indicators research, 46(2), 137-155
- Warr, P. (2008). Self-employment, personal values, and varieties of happiness–unhappiness. Journal of occupational health psychology, 23(3), 388.