There was a time when work was a factor that greatly contributed to the happiness and fulfillment of a person in his life. Such was a time when great working relationships among people in the working place – whether it is a cozy corporate office or a noisy industrial plant – instilled in them the enthusiasm to look forward to each working day. On top of the camaraderie among the workers, the purpose and daily meaning that they found in their work more than compensated for their unattractive payroll figures.
An article at New York Times written by Adam Cohen says, “The 1970’s were a slower age, and much of the workers’ pleasure in their jobs is related to the less demanding time clock.” (Internet) Indeed, working during those years meant living life and enjoying each day, whether it is a working day or one’s day off from work.Working during those years afforded workers time for things that give them reasons to smile while at work.
Cohen cited as examples how stewardess are required to spend time talking with the plane passengers and how a hospital worker can squeeze in his working schedule a visit to a patient who has nobody to visit him or to keep him company even just for a short while. Having time for these small things makes people appreciate other people and appreciate life as a whole. Workers during the earlier years also were proud of what they did and the roles they played in the course of doing their jobs.
Indeed, many would dismiss as insignificant the work of waitresses, bookbinders and gravediggers. And yet, there are people in such jobs who see the significance of what they do and who, then, find meaning in attending to their tasks in their working places – tasks that they performed in their own unique styles. Their relatively small salaries notwithstanding, workers before appreciated the work given them and their jobs largely contributed to their self-knowledge and their sense of importance.The 21st century, though, brought in the “new ruthless economy”, (Cohen, Internet) which transformed workers into human machines who did their jobs and duties in exchange for their pay. Cohen wrote, “High tech and new management styles put workers on what the author Simon Head calls ‘digital assembly lines’ with little room for creativity or independent thought. As much as 4 percent of the work force is now employed in call centers, reading canned scripts and being supervised with methods known as ‘management by stress’.” (Cohen, Internet) Jobs that have become available during the past years have significantly lessened the opportunities for employees to be creative and sociable people. These days, everybody has become so busy at work; the pacing of transactions and movements has likewise become stressful.Thus, there came the years when the economy flourished and things have become hectic at work all over the nation. The importance of personal relationships was set aside and almost everything then had to be translated to figures. The decisions of management became foremost based on the bottom figures – whether each new issue represents profit or loss, additional income or expense – and even people were reduced into numbers and statistics. A poem entitled, “The Unknown Citizen” ends as follows: “Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.” (Auden, Internet) The poem describes how persons can be treated as nothing but an addition to prevailing numbers representing various concerns of the society and how each person can leave no imprint of his life on earth except the contributions he made to the statistics prevailing during his lifetime. It talks of life being bereft of relationships, passion, meaning and fulfillment. It actually projects life as being lived as though in a fish bowl – so limited and unexciting. The poem also projects people as mindless beings doing things in a mechanical manner characteristic of plain existence – people might as well be all robots. Indeed, the present might resemble this sad picture painted by the poem, but things can be done so the needed changes would take effect.Looking at the prevailing trends and the empty, meaningless life that more and more people are living while they are in their workplaces, the question that next comes up is how America can reverse the ongoing drift and help see to the plight of the unhappily employed and unsatisfied members of the work force. In the old days, there were workers who were dissatisfied only with the financial aspect of their jobs. They were the teachers and other enthusiasts of their respective fields who would not trade their posts for any other but would be happier if they would be paid more for doing the things they did. These days, the dissatisfaction is caused by both the inadequate compensation scheme in place and the general lack of enjoyment and happiness that people find in attending to their duties at work. It is sad that millions “live in the shadow of prosperity, in the twilight between poverty and well-being.” (Shipler, Internet) These are citizens for whom the American Dream is out of reach despite their willingness to work hard. They live by the day, and they dare not look at their future which is totally unplanned for in terms of good health and financial security. Many members of the American society belong to this caste. They have meager means; thus, even minor setbacks like accidents can cause their entire life to be so badly affected. The jobs they get are those so-called “dead-end” jobs, which hardly offer benefits or opportunities. And so they take jobs simply because they cannot afford to not take them – not taking the unattractive jobs available would mean not having food to eat and not being able to provide for their families. They have become victims of necessity; in order to provide the basic needs of themselves and their families, they have embraced their careers without much thought of their personal satisfaction and dreams.Shipler has further written, “As a culture, the United States is not quite sure about the causes of poverty, and is therefore uncertain about the solutions.” In his book, Shipler has proposed that on top of the current assistance programs of the government that badly need some boost, some other steps in the right direction should as well be applied. The society will have to do its part, while the government is hoped to implement procedures that will make life better for its constituents such as the adoption of an improved wage structure adopted, the creation of more vocational programs (in both the public and private sectors), the development of a fairer way to distribute school funding, and the sound implementation of a basic national health care plan (Shipler, Internet).Shipler does not believe that the government alone, nor any other single variable, can solve the problem. Instead, other things will be to be as well put in place, beginning with the political will necessary for the creation of a relief system “that recognizes both the society’s obligation through government and business, and the individual’s obligation through labor and family” (Shipler, Internet).While these plans are in place and will take time to be realized, there are changes that can begin to happen now. One big change would be in the way members of the working force of the nation generally view their jobs and what they think of the roles they play in the lives of other people. “Work should be fun.” (Bakke, Internet) Each workplace should be a haven where “every person, from custodian to CEO, has the power to use his or her God-given talents free of needless corporate bureaucracy. A joy-filled workplace gives people the freedom to use their talents and skills for the benefit of society, without being crushed or controlled by autocratic supervisors. We defined fun to mean rewarding, exciting, creative and successful.” (Bakke, Internet) Thus, Bakke hopes to lead the working people of today to regain the enthusiasm and love that people in the old days had for their work. Despite the developments in the industrialized nation, Bakke attempts to make people see how much happier they would be by becoming like the workers during the later part of the 19th century.The machineries in place, the technologies handy and some practices have changed a lot, but some things much not change. Even now, people still can see work as a fun thing to do. It only requires a change in perspective and in one’s approach to work. Similarly, some authors believe that if people would bring a playful attitude to their jobs and would think of work as a game, they will achieve more and find the same work more enjoyable. There are specific ideas about “scheduling games at work, giving employees unexpected rewards, and treating employees better than customers.Even more useful, though, might be the general tips for stress reduction. As an example of the rules given, people will have to learn to react to problems as water reacts: it flows. “If it gets blocked, it flows around the problem, but also gradually wears it down. If it is dammed, it eventually finds a way over, under or though the problem. So when all else fails, watch water flow.” (Weinstein, Internet) Some books advise that workers should learn to take themselves less seriously so as to more easily see the lighter side of things. “Work works best when it’s regularly infused with fun. That makes people look forward to work – the way the aforementioned dog looks forward to jogging with its human pal – rather than dreading it.” (Weinstein, Internet)To start right, young people who are about to graduate and to get onboard the respective companies they have chosen should be provided ample of guidance and advice that will enable them to prepare better for the big leap that they are about to take. Author Roberts has written:If you’re getting ready to graduate, the prospect of going out into the real world and starting work can be daunting… The good news is that there are many opportunities for graduates (and not just in conventional ‘jobs’); tried and tested ways of identifying what type of work you will enjoy; and proven strategies to increase your chances of getting it. The more you understand about the world of graduate employment, career choice and job hunting, the better prepared you will be to carve out an individual and personal career for yourself, a career that you will enjoy. (Internet)Indeed, looking at the sad picture of the working class of today would make young people resolve to not end up like one of the disgruntled employees of various companies that they could see all around. Problems of the society will be solved, and workers can do their part by solving their own issues regarding how they see their work and how they see themselves as engaged in such work. Happiness and fun at work can be achieved; it is all a matter of seeing things differently and choosing not to be engulfed by the bureaucratic, impersonal and hectic systems of the companies today.Knowing that one must love and enjoy his work is the first step to take.Works CitedAuden, Wystan Hugh. “The Unknown Citizen.” 9 August 2008 <http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/386.html>.Bakke, Dennis W. Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job. Seattle, WA: PVG. 9 August 2008. <>.Cohen, Adam. “Editorial Observer; What Studs Terkel’s ‘Working’ Says About Worker Malaise Today.” New York Times. 31 May 2004. 9 August 2008. Roberts, Leila. After You Graduate: Finding and Getting Work You Will Enjoy. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2006. 9 August 2008. <>.Shipler, David K. The Working Poor: Invisible in America. Vintage Publishing, 2005. 9 August 2008. <>.Weinstein, Matt W. Work Like Your Dog: Fifty Ways to Work Less, Play More and Earn More. Random House Children’s Publishing, 1999. 9 August 2008. <http://www.amazon.com/Work-Like-Your-Dog_Fifty/dp/0375502416>.For Further Reading and ResearchKozol, Jonathan. Amazing Grace: Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1995. This book details the poverty that some castes in the New York society live in. It depicts the disparity between the lives of the rich and the poor of the society.