Humans II

This is the second guest post from Andrew Jordan. I will shut up and get out of the way 🙂

“I’m interested why people work. No, not the money. I take that as a given. I mean why people choose to do what they do. Why they end up being brain surgeons, elephant chiropodists, cheese couriers, asphalt rollers, hot air balloon designers, curling tongue [surely tong? Anthony] testers etc. Why do people do what they do ?

I ask this question largely because Anthony talks so much about the inefficiencies and frustrations of the workplace. But one thing I’ve never heard him talk about is actually why people are there in the first place. I know why I worked there, but why does everyone of the 55,000 other people work there ? What do they get from their work ?

There’s clearly not a simple or single answer to this. People do what they do for a whole host of different reasons. Human interaction, a sense of fulfilment, delivering something meaningful to a grateful audience, a corporate goal of some sort, they’re all something I’ve seen in people who turn up to work.

But here’s a theory. Most people don’t want to be there. They put up with work. They imbibe the monotony and allow themselves to be frustrated and bored because there is either no other option (in their view), or else they do not have the inclination to find something better or different. I worry about this. It’s not healthy. In fact, it ends up being extremely damaging to both the individual and the employer who has them sitting in their office.

I wonder what would happen if you took money out of the picture. If people could really do what they really want to do. How different society would be if you just allowed people to be who they are? Would we have a lot more writers ? More sportsmen and women ? More cheesemakers ? How would society look and how would it interact if you couldn’t find people who wanted to work in Sainsburys ? And, most disturbingly, how many people would do NOTHING ? Of course, we’ll never know.

What would you do ?”

I have some strong views on why I work and how I do what I do. It has sod all to do with my job title. I will doubtless rabbit on later in the comment stream.

When considering Andrew’s question, I also asked, what makes me human?


7 thoughts on “Humans II

  1. Removing the labels, my current job is to lead by our getting better at things by:

    Learning new things, failing fearlessly, safely and quickly
    Applying things I have recently learned, perhaps in a safe environment, in a real and challenging one
    Using the knowledge and experience I already have most of the time
    Connecting people in some common purpose 
    Celebrating success, which means knowing what that looks like, recognising it and being recognised for it
    Most of all, enjoying it. 

    That has consciously been my job for 5-6 years though I have almost always worked that way to a great extent. Because I like to mix a fair amount of the third component in, it does not quite translate to, “I can do anything”, but it certainly means I don’t feel constrained by job titles or past or present. 

    As soon as even one of those things no longer applies, excluding bad days and accepting that enjoying it all does not equate to it being easy, then it is time to go and do something else.  

    To put it another way, find work, or an occupation if you don’t need the money, that you enjoy, and ruthlessly and continously assess whether it still works for you. If not, do something else. If you can, do several things, AND is of my very favourite words.

    If I didn’t need the money, or I had the guts to concede that I could get by on a lot less, what would I do?  The same list would apply I think, but success would probably look very different. 

    What would you do?

  2. I find it easier than most to answer the “what would you do?” question, as I am currently in the fortunate position of having taken voluntary redundancy. But first, I did what I did initially by accident, but I came to love what I did with a passion. To Andrew’s point on people putting up with work, sadly I think that is true, but thankfully not always – there are still people bring a necessary vitality, challenge and curiosity to everything they do.

    I don’t think I would have written exactly the same list as you Anthony, but there are common elements, particularly the people connections and the enjoyment. And they are the two things I have found hardest to do without. But on the other hand I now travel, read copiously, write, walk, socialise and generally enjoy life. I did concede I could get along with less money and there is some truth in the old adage that the best things in life are free. Only occasionally do I hanker for something I would previously have regarded as a necessity but now see as a luxury. Champagne is, clearly, excluded from that!

  3. I’d address your question with a quote from Harvey MacKay: ““Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. To me, the whole essence of what it means to work is precisely that. It’s something you get out of bed for in the morning because you really want to, because it creates that emotional stimulus that equals enjoyment, and the fact that someone is willing to give you money for doing it actually feels like an added bonus.

    It is a sad reflection of society (probably Western society primarily) that we rush around so fast and so hard that we whizz through our working lives never really allowing ourselves that chance to work out if this is what we should be doing in the first place. The only time people tend to pause for breath is during the annual employee survey when they lambast their bosses, moan about not being paid enough and generally have a good old whinge. Yet so few do anything about it and, more to the point, never ask themselves if there’s something they’d rather be doing.

    I, like Mary, am in an extremely fortunate position. No, I have not taken voluntary redundancy, but fairly recently I found myself doing a job that I thoroughly, thoroughly love doing. And it is only now I am doing it that I realise my past endeavours were a varying mix of compromises, often related to money. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy previous jobs, and all too often it was the people I worked with that made it so. Anthony, for one, has been one of the best people I’ve ever worked with at both a personal and a professional level. Yet, upon further inspection, the human elements often mask something less enjoyable.

    I recall a moment in time when I was considering taking my current role and was telling my wife about what I would be doing. She has known me for forever and her remark was that she’d never heard me talk so passionately about a role ever since she met me. Even to this day, she says the same.

    So my list is somewhat simpler than Anthony’s:

    1. Work with great people that are talented in their own right (so you can learn from them), who have integrity and who inspire you.
    2. Find a subject matter at work that you find interesting in your personal life too.
    3. Find somewhere that allows and encourages creative and alternative thinking and supports it with ever more interesting objectives, tasks and projects.

    I think I’ve probably had 2 out of 3 in almost everything I’ve done before now, but only now can I unequivocally say I’ve got all three.

    Oh, and the money ain’t bad either.

  4. I don’t know why we actually write posts here. We should just ask big nasty questions and talk about it in this incredibly productive way!

    As usual, I learned something from you both.



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