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The modern work ethic and orientation

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2205 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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There are various types of works and with each type there is a different type of work orientation attached, for example in a regular manual labour one would not expect the worker to bring on high commitment to work as this worker will be working in order to meet ends with taking care of the family as his main goal. On the other hand in a skilled laboratory, for example, the scientist will be expected to work and bring along a good quality of work orientations so that the work goes on smoothly and the other research counterpart benefits due to a workers high quality work. Here the worker has the science related work as the main goal, and family and other criteria comes secondary.

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Initial studies have concentrated in generalising the work force and the work orientations they bring about at a work place. Though this was not very wrong at their times but in modern times this has changed as there is a lot of division in a similar type of work itself. For example, in a production company, there are people who are working at a manufacturing level, there are people who are working at R&D level, and there are people who are working at business level. At the business level there are further divisions including HR, sales, marketing etc. At each level there are different types of orientations expected out of the worker. A skilled labourer working at a plant will have different expectations and future goals as compared to the ‘big boss’ sitting at the executive level.

The main issue here is that the old studies have concentrated on generalising the work orientations. In these new times there are new requirements to consider in order to make the work a better place which is beneficial for both the worker and the employee. Though we can learn a lot from old researches, newer studies are still required as the times have changed in a major ways. Therefore specific studies are required in order to understand what is beneficial for both.

The meaning of work

There are many definitions of work. In theology work can be the Karma or “deed”, in “physics” it happens when and where a certain amount of energy moves a body of specific weight through a specific distance and at the level of ‘human labour’ it may involve employment or house work.

In economic term labour is the amount of work done by humans and can include ‘manual labour’ (which is the physical work done by someone or a group of people), ‘waged labour’ (where a worker sells his labour and an employer buys it for hourly/pre-decided payment), or ‘project management’ (where the main aim is to finish a task).

“Work is a social duty and contributes to social order in any society, it is also there to promote moral worth in the individual” (Anthony 1977) The Ideology of Work (International Behavioural and Social Sciences Library), Even religion has paid emphasis to work like in Islam, work ethic argues that life without work has no meaning and engagement in economic activities is an obligation (Yousef 2001:153) even Buddha singled out laziness as a cause of downfall of men and nations and urged that everyone should put forth effort (Niles 1999:858).

The basic reason for a person to work is for economic gains. Working to survive, to gain food, shelter, etc. a person wants to work to gain self- respect. But is it all about money? This is a question mostly asked to people who wants to associate career success to the amount of money they earn. Work is not always about money, this is because there are certain other terms involved including job satisfaction and career growth. Gallie, D and White, M (1993) Employee Commitment and the Skills Revolution, London: Policy Studies Institute. At the level of nations, every nation wants its people to work in order to contribute to the society. In certain countries it is an obligation where everyone must work to the best of their ability and contribute to society (Britain, Japan, USA) in others it is an entitlement where everyone has the right to a meaningful and interesting job with proper training (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany) [Status and type of job (Baruch, 2004)]

The ‘modern’ work ethic and introducing orientations to work

According to Watson, work is the essential prerequisite of personal and social advancement and of self-fulfilment (Watson 1995:115). It is the meaning that working individuals attach to their work, which predisposes them to think and act in particular ways and with regard to work it is very important (Watson 2002).

There are two types of works (Watson 1995), one which gives intrinsic satisfaction is enriching, provides any kind of a challenge, enables development and self-fulfilment, so here the work has an expressive meaning. On other hand, work which gives extrinsic satisfactions yields no value and is only a mean to meet the ends. Here, satisfaction or fulfilment is sought outside of work like in a hobby of some sort. Here the work has an instrumental meaning

Work orientation basically Refers to the ethics, expectations, and state of mind that any worker brings to an establishment. This topic has been of concern to many people. There have been studies which have revealed that “work orientation” influence the experience of job. Work orientation is related to motivation but is not motivation, it is associated with commitment but is not commitment.

In the year 1960, studies were carried out in a car plant in Luton by Goldthorpe, Lockwood et al. Here he concluded his study with a paradox which was that workers were neither satisfied nor dis-satisfied with their work. They did not appear to be deriving any intrinsic or social satisfaction from job but did not express dissatisfaction with their work. [Goldthorpe J, Lockwood D, Bechhofer F and Platt J, 1968, The Affluent Worker: industrial attitudes and Behaviour, Cambridge Univ. Press.] Here he showed that an instrumental worker works to meet an end , has a calculative involvement, i.e. is not too indulgent or job oriented, and there is a clear separation within job and non-job related activities. Therefore the worker brought a only a limited amount of work orientation into the work organisation. Though in conclusion Goldthorpe says that the worker has a choice to leave the job and go elsewhere where he can have a better job satisfaction.

This work by Goldthorpe has been criticized by many including Devine Grieco, Daniel Beynon and Blackburn. They said that all the work in industrial societies has an instrumental basis or nature, i.e. the worker joins the work knowing that this will be only to meet the end not to gain other things (Devine 1992; Grieco 1987). The ‘instrumental worker’ does not have much choice as concluded by Goldthorpe (Beynon and Blackburn 1972) because either he is unskilled in other kind of work or he is limited in initial resources to start a work of a specific kind. Also Daniel said that Work orientation is not static (Daniel 1973).

According to these critiques, Goldthorpe was overly simplistic with focus on money or as they said ‘fulfilment’ because he chose a problematic group for managers to work upon, also he forgot to understand that manual labour was a lot more accessible to investigation which in the first place is not liked by workers who are doing this kind of job.

Also his studies, did not had a control comparison with professionally orientation to work which includes qualifications, feeling of success, values placed on ‘hard work’, extent of control over destiny and feeling good about current job and attachment to organisation. His studies also did not include gender which is an important part to study at a society level because of many families now a days have both members working.

Introducing gender

There have been many studies done including by Hakim in which there is introduction of women and men at a same level in the work force and their studies. Since Goldthorpe et al’s study ignores gender, Hakim’s (1991) talks about women ‘grateful slaves’ and self-made women and men and compare them. Hakim’s (1995) polarity thesis: work-centred women, home-centred women and ‘drifters’ / Hakim’s (1998, 2001) preference theory

He put forwards a ‘preference theory’ in which there are 3 kinds of women;

Work-centred women which constitutes of (25%) of the total population surveyed. These women were childless and were committed to work, investment in training, qualifications etc.

His second group consisted of Home-centred women which constituted of 28% of the surveyed population who had family as their main priority. They did not prefer to work as they believed in qualifications as only for intellectual dowry.

The third category of working women were adaptives’ which were a mix of both (47%) and combined a balance between raising children and reaching career goals despite of not totally being highly committed to career. According to them qualifications obtained for working was there to help them gain promotions etc.

His work challenges the traditional feminist ‘myths’ and shows that women were aware of individual differences (preferences). Though his work was survey based there were no dialogs with the women themselves (Procter and Padfield 1998; Caven 1999; Fagan 2001). He also assumed that orientation to work is static and predetermined (Fagan 2001). According to many critiques he Overemphasised choices and preferences and totally ignored structural and economic factors involved.

Bringing men back in

“It is notable that there is in practice only one ‘choice’ of work history for men, compared to three for women. Feminists who emphasise that women’s choices are constrained and not ‘completely free’ overlook the fact that women have more choices than men” (Hakim 1996:134,

But is this really the case? According to Nolan this is not the case as many men fits the ‘adaptives’ category (Nolan, 2009). Fagan shows this by talking about how Men’s commitment to work declines around time of childbirth (Fagan, 2001). Also Structural demands prevent men from spending time with family (Pleck, 1985) which makes them prefer to be adaptive rather than being totally work oriented.

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Work orientation and gender relation:

Work orientation basically Refers to the values, anticipations, and feelings that any worker brings to an organisation. This topic has been of interest to many people. There have been researches which have shown that “work orientation” effect the experience of job. Work orientation is Related to motivation but is not motivation, it is associated with commitment but ISN’T commitment and it links with effort bargain and implicit contract

Men mostly prefer to work in order to have a personal satisfaction and job related satisfaction i.e. their orientations to work are similar (Caven, 2009). More related research is needed in this area as this is a topic which integrates many other things including salary related rewards, career growth, time spent in job compared to time spent at home balance (Hakim, 2008; Raiden and Caven, forthcoming). There is also a need to show how and why a person’s orientation towards a particular job or from a particular job changes.


The further research is indeed needed because initial studies have concentrated more upon general way of obtaining data. Also there has been a generalization of groups and initial researchers thinks that they can generalise people from all sorts of work in a specific category, this is not true as various types of jobs have their own requirements and faults which can attract a person or repel a person from that job, for example, a manual labour job given to a student during his time at the university will help him financially and keep him busy but the same job to the same student after his graduation will have no reason for the student to continue to work upon unless he is not getting a job in his specified field.

Also original studies focussed on men and manufacturing and from that time there has been a lot of changes in the types of jobs available in the market today, there are jobs in various kinds of fields including science, arts, skilled labour, etc, also there have been sub division of work and thus there are different requirements at different levels. Further research in required to find out different orientations to work and the specified areas related to different aspects of work.

Just like there are various definitions of work, there are many types of works done in a society. When a worker goes to an office there are certain things accepted out of him like work ethics, good practice, better outcome at highest level of quality, similarly the worker also expects certain things out of the employee.


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