Would you invest your money with an institution/organization that didn’t recognize the value of your deposit and that didn’t enable it to synergize with that of other depositors? Of course you wouldn’t! Why? Likely you expect to have returned what you’ve put in plus interest. In fact, you would probably choose that institution/organization that provided the highest interest.
Now let’s conduct a little thought experiment. In the above scenario replace your money with your time. So now the question is: Would you invest your time with an institution/organization that didn’t recognize the value of you, as a person, and that didn’t enable you to synergize with other persons?
Before you impulsively respond, consider what you actually do each and every work day. What do you get from your time at work? I suspect most would say a paycheck with a benefits package. If you are not given the space—both physical and psychological space—to engage your potential and freely exercise your capabilities, then likely that is all you get. Like fish our growth and development is constrained by the space of the container we are in.
Why then do most spend their time working in an organization managed by people who don’t recognize their value and who don’t allow them to develop through synergistic relationships with others in the organization? Why do we go along with those who view us as mere instruments to their gain? Why do we cooperate with those who have no interest in us a human being?
I suspect a major contributing factor to us perpetuating our instrumental use value lies in the assumption that we have about work. We aren’t hunter-gatherers so we need to exchange our labor as a means of income for subsistence—it is strictly an economic exchange, time is money. There is no commitment to (human) investment in this arrangement! That is, we assume that all we should get out of work is a paycheck. Why shouldn’t we also expect to actualize our potential? We expect interest for the money we have but not for the time we have in life! Why?
Unfortunately, we don’t realize that we are valuing our money far more than we are valuing our life! In effect, by forsaking our self-development—and that of others—we pave the way for those who employ us to deny it as well. Simply we are cooperating in our very own decline. Yes we participate in this arrangement. We make it very easy and thus quite common for others to view and use us as instruments when we follow a material self-interest orientation. If the only value we accept and seek from work is material gain, then aren’t we objectifying and depersonalizing life itself?
It becomes the way things are in the world. We believe the worth of everything is translatable into material value—if anything is to have any worth at all. Leadership, for example, is often judged on the resultant material gain—clearly a misguided understanding of leadership. And because we see it everywhere we erroneously assume that it’s a fact of life. Thus, believing this assumption we spend time in work and don’t invest our time (on this earth) through work. Shouldn’t time at work be a joy not just a job?
Perhaps we should turn the focus of attention away from single-mindedly seeking to get something of material valuable out of life. Perhaps, instead, we should ask how we can maintain value in life. Isn’t it time to expect—even demand—that our time at work meaningfully contribute to the value of life, ours’ and that of others?
Gregory, as usual, I found your post to be thoughtful and thought-provoking. I honor your affirmation of higher values than the usual pecuniary ones.
While I agree with you completely, I would like to add a little to your position: If companies acted as if they believed in what you say about the fundamental human need for more than just a paycheck in exchange for working, and if they found efficient ways to secure an alignment between their objectives and the growth and development objectives (in a word, “meaning” objectives) of their people, they would make more money, too. There doesn’t have to be a trade-off, and it could be argued that there shouldn’t be a trade-off.
One of the truths that has emerged from my three decades of working, consulting, observing, and reflecting is this one: No company can get maximum leverage from its assets without getting maximum leverage from its human capital assets. And if it treats people like chattel, it won’t get maximum leverage from its human capital assets. Today’s GenX and GenY managers either didn’t learn this, or else they did learn it, but don’t believe it.
So, Gregory, let me add my voice from the wilderness to yours. . .
Rick, greatly appreciate your perspective. I believe you are right, there need not be a trade-off. It can be far more profitable–both materially and spiritually.
Please add my voice from the wilderness too. There are gains to be had on every level so it seems more than a little foolish that we limit ourselves to only one – that of the material.