I’ll bet that there isn’t one of us who, at least sometimes (though more likely most of the time), doesn’t piss n’ moan about the abject unfairness of having to earn a living by…working! This type of whining permeates all levels, strata, and echelons, from the lowest paid 7-11 cashier to the CEO of Google. Actually, this attitude is equally endemic to both white and blue collar workers, and don’t kid yourself, to the new green collars as well.
Yet, who knows what the general ‘dissatisfaction rate’ really is? The media, when they deign to profile ‘The Common Man,’ will typically follow the scent of what they think is in vogue, like a stray dog in heat. So, one year when they want to pander to the conservatives, they tell us that, as Americans, we enjoy the very best working conditions possible. And that we should be grateful for what we got, and then they perennially insult our collective intelligence by comparing us to, let’s say, who they think our counterparts are in either Outer Mongolia or Upper Volta. Hell, my cats live better than those folks, and I don’t need Time or Newsweek to tell me so. Nor, by the way, do I feel at all guilty about it. Conversely, and when they feel a little lefty, the storyline will be about how corrupt all bosses are, that there’s a grand conspiracy to exploit the American worker, blah blah. Ooh- I know, we’re being ripped off by the ‘Establishment’ (whatever that is…). Let’s ask Abby Hoffman or Timothy Leary-oops, guess not-’cause they’re both dead.
While the worker self-pity needle fluctuates according to the prevailing social winds, all of us are nonetheless left with still having to deal with all the vagaries, problems, challenges and concerns that the world of work provides us with each and every day.
You know what? Having to work isn’t such a bad thing, after all. Because, and if we set self-absorption aside, we realize that beyond the obvious financial imperatives that our jobs, or better yet, careers, provide us with several often overlooked psychic benefits. Here are three basics, submitted for your consideration:
Work provides us with a certain discipline, a form to our days. For the most part, psychiatrists and psychologists agree, that the steadiness of routine alleviates anxiety, provides a mostly healthy outlet for our energies and, on a very concrete level, gives us a place to go to every day and a series of standards that we must adhere to.
Beyond the generic, yet very varied series of human interactions that the world of work provides, more importantly, work helps to shore up our identities. Not that we should be fully defined by our jobs, certainly not. Rather, the very fact that we are employed explicitly tells us that yes, we’re wanted, needed, and that we do perform an important function. Basically, that we’re not useless.
While we may never think of the office as a refuge, the truth is that there is no better place to escape, or at least enjoy a short respite from, the personal problems that plague all of us at one time or another. Brooding over a trivial argument with your significant other? Dry cleaner lost your best shirt? Need a root canal? In-laws coming to visit? Worried about this or that? Relax, and take a break by channeling some of that negative energy into well, work. Guaranteed, there’s nothing like work to help, 0r even cure, a whole range of relatively unimportant issues that preoccupy and exhaust us. Look at it as an all-paid psychic vacation aka ‘taking your mind off (whatever worries you) it.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m the last guy that would ever advocate that you should pay for the privilege of working. Or that all bosses are great and their organizations more righteous than the Red Cross. Not hardly. But it is, after all, a matter of perspective.