Thought Archive

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Performance at work an in pleasure

Inefficiency and incompetence are one of the many burdens preventing a faster run towards more profit and therefore more material progress. These have been bothering humans since the beginning of time – when the first shop had opened for business. One of the reasons for such persistence factors so bothersome to a fanatical capitalist, is human attitude to work – simply put in a short dictum that people are not machines.. It is also very true that certain cultures have more responsible attitudes to work performance than others. It is not a surprise therefore, that while thoroughness characterises some Asian and Anglo-Saxon cultures, it avoids Middle Eastern and Former Soviet ones altogether.

Take organization of work and discipline – while Japanese toil their lives in the office cubicles and do not live work till late, Middle Eastern Muslims live early for prayers sometimes not coming back (observed) – and Latin Americans break for siesta and spend it too generously with a cerveza or two (also observed). Work discipline in Caribbean countries is such that one wonders how things get done at all. In addition to that, government employees in practically all countries I have lived in – I am thinking of my own as an example – are highly unmotivated and disinterested. Even better salaries and promotional perks do not make better government employees, in fact they make them much more dependent on those said perks and therefore more ill-disciplined. I believe there is a limit as to how effective they can be (since they lack real human capitial) and this limit may have been already reached in Western countries.

But the World of profit and productivity has its saviour in a little guy from the office. Not everyone is irresponsible, they are many who are keen to work for its own sake.. There are like this everywhere, people who sacrifice their family lives and free time for a better performed work in the job – not out of want for promotion and better salary but out of love towards fruits of their labour. These are people who care about the products they create – as proud as men excited about cherry blossoms on their garden patch... There are so many engineers gleaming with pride upon the completion of a project, so many workers that are happy when their car rolls out of production line. This is a real, not manufactured pride, a pride that moves economies ahead – for it is not the slave driver of the wage but pride in one's achievements that counts.

I notice these thorough and methodical people everywhere –they are certainly more prevalent amongst Anglo-Saxons and Asians, but they are everywhere. For every “lazy” culture the are internal resources - worker bees who save the society from complete collapse, sacrifice themselves on the altar of job performance, eschewing favourite activities of their fellow countrymen – dancing, singing and drinking or just generally enjoying life at the expense of real money earners. However, underestimating those who enjoy life is also not a healthy attitude.

“Work is a virtue, pleasure is a sin” – this is an old “Protestant” work ethic that now is in the need of updating. Work creates wealth – and when people perform work enthusiastically, so much the better. Pleasure spends wealth in many ways and both work and pleasure are useful for consumer economy in equal measure. People who enjoy life should better do it with money, on credit and without a thought for the future – then they spend more and give more to the economy … And they are not so dour, compared to those who never get out of the office.

11 comments:

Riri said...

I don't think that culture is something that is innate though, it is very much a dynamic entity that is contiuously being moulded by societal, political and economical tides. You seem to suggest that Anglo-saxons and Asians have more responsible work ethics as a result of their culture, I think it is the other way round, their culture is a result of more responsible work ethics imposed and encouraged by tough economic and political strategies. In Arab countries, the situation is dire, no control, no motivation, no hope for better prospects. People try and comfort themselves by thinking that it is God's will, it is a delusion but a sanity keeping mechanism rather than a founded religious belief. It is not the cause of their lazyness and apathy, it is a byproduct of unfair and oppressive political and economical environments. In Algeria for example, people are still so used to being fed by the State that they are completely incapable of taking initiative. Privatization is starting but it is still slow, big fish and market mafia is putting up big resistance to free market and free trade, this in turn discourage free enterprise and kills motivation. Working in Government is no better, you are garanteed a lifetime of salary no matter how mediocre your output is. So it is hardly surprising people do not give a damn about working...

Hazar Nesimi said...
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Hazar Nesimi said...

Of course cultures change and influence each other and are never static, however over the course of human lifetime they are relatively stable. True, there are some revolutionary changes in political landscape but the innate nature of people responds to outward changes very slowly, over generations, not few years. It is the same as to think of geologic time-scale - The Earth is extremely dynamic entity yet it appears unchangeable to us.

Situation of cause and effect is not that simple as you portray- yes, tough economic polices can encourage responsible attitudes but they will not cause an immediate response or true desire to work for your wage - think Arab countries, it will be gradual towards more responsible culture. Think Italy - they had enough time to address shortcomings. If the conditions are not satisfied Void is filled by hard working individuals from other countries - if this was not so there would not be no need in low or high skill labour. Employers want 1. Skills and 2. Diligence, 3. Initiative.

Azerbaijan is in the same space where Algeria = 20 years recovering from Socialism and not getting there- expecting from the state, this is part of mentality that will not go away. It stays for a generation or even two. That's why only young people can respond to the needs, not even middle-aged.

10:31 AM

NoolaBeulah said...

Very interesting question. And almost impossible to answer. So I won't try.

Just a couple of observations. I assume that most people will do as little as possible to get by. And if they have it given to them, they will expect it always to be given to them, just as you both say.

It follows that there needs to be some risk, and that failure needs to have some consequences. In other words, individuals should be responsible for themselves. Yet, there needs also to be the hope that their own efforts can make a real difference, that if they take responsibility, if they make the effort, the rewards (as well as the risks) will be theirs.

The difficulty is achieving that state of affairs without leaving the weak totally exposed.

Riri said...

Picking up on Noolabeulah's point about the fact that failure should have some consequences, I think the capitalist world has achieved this by setting up financial systems whereby the labouring masses are endebted to death. They are forced to work hard to pay off vavious debts they accumulate. Most work generating institutions are also privately owned, they have huge financial stakes in their enterprises and hence they project their anxieties of failure on their employees. It sounds awful to say, but it seems that financial worries and fears are the only thing that will keep people working. If you find a way to exert pressure and stimulate people's worst financial fears on a societal scale, I think the results will be felt in relatively short time-scales. The UK is also good in its work mobility strategy, there are no lifetime contracts and your next job will very much depend on your past performance. Here in Algeria for example, jobs are for life. In France it is the same. Then you get pseudo-religious backward thinking which leads people never to fire anybody under the pretext that they are responsible for feeding little mouths. So there, you get job security and you can earn more money elsewhere by pegging (very lucrative activity apparently) or other similar dishonest and illegal activities...you see the problem. In short, I don't think it is inherent, I think it would have been the case for any set of people under the same circumstances.

NoolaBeulah said...

"I think it would have been the case for any set of people under the same circumstances."

So what is it that breaks the mould? How come countries like Poland and the Czech Republic can 'take off' after a relatively short time in a 'real' economy, and others can't? Why did the S-E Asian countries become economic tigers when others stay mired in stagnation?

And what does 'pegging' mean? Another job on the side? Never heard that before.

Riri said...

I think what breaks the mould is the combination of politics of the state, opportunities and past history of the people. HISTORY: Time is a huge factor, because the longer experience in self-governance you have the better, you discover yourself gradually and refine your systems. It is about wisdom not knowledge per se. Obviously the experiences countries go through differ which makes tipping point different for everyone. OPPORTUNITY: When the right people happen to be in power at the right time, it is also a big advantage because that means they are likely to have the right vision on how to benefit from contemporary technological, scientific and economic trends. Now I think the latter is more or less a random event (i.e. having the right people in power at the right time) regardless of whether a truly democratic regime is in place. POLITICS: Fundamentally, people have to have faith in the usefulness of their work and be scared of the consequences of not working in order to bother to work at all. In this sense, people who do not even know the notion of a career because they have always been unemployed or seen all people around them without fruitful career-paths (no role models) will understandably not be motivated to work. Similarly for people who see their seniors work for nothing or not work and get everything. I think role models are very important in society especially when it comes to things like work ethics and they can only appear under the right political environment.

Riri said...

As for pegging it is a typing mistake, I meant begging. Would you be surprised if I told you that there are beggars in Algeria who own villas and the latest make of cars?

Hazar Nesimi said...

No, its the same in Azerbaijan. Beggars are persistent as hell, some of them

NoolaBeulah said...

I remember hearing stories of beggars with fortunes here, too. But I never once came across an actual case. Some might have more than they show, but to have a fortune, you need other people working to earn you money. (Mind you, there were stories in 18C London of Beggar Kings and their kingdoms.) Persistent, yes, but with their own villas?

Riri said...

I think the modern equivalent of these beggars in today's UK are benefit fraudsters - hehehehe! Those Brits, always a step ahead of the rest, such sophistication! Pshhhhh!