With the end of Christmas time and the beginning of the new year, there inevitably comes the day of the return to offices and schools. As this day approaches, the social media as well as our own conversations become flooded with sorrowful complaints that the free time is over. And it is in the middle of all this that I find myself wondering why.
As I reflect upon my job, I recognize that for the most part, I really like it. I enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that solving problems gives me. I don’t feel particularly pressured or stressed. I find my bosses and coworkers nice people to be around. And even in the face of these facts, I recognize in myself the feeling of dread at the thought that tomorrow I will have to go back to work.
What comes to my mind are the children that at the first day of school, even though they have never experienced it before, already fear it and cry to be taken back home. Is it just the fear of unknown or perhaps something else? As the weeks pass, in the most part they do seem to in fact hate it. But was there something that influenced their approach before they even got to form their own opinion? Could they have been conditioned in such a way?
What comes to my mind are the words of my grandmother who since the very beginning liked to remind me that the childhood years were the best years of my life and once I started working things will never be the same again.
What finally comes to my mind are numerous films, TV shows, books, commercials, music videos and comics that seem to assume that people hate their jobs or schools. Scenes with bored faces behind computer screens, dreaming of crashing the keyboard and handing in the resignation or hiding in tears in the bathroom stool are all way too familiar.
Being fed all these words and images all our lives, have we in fact been conditioned to hate our jobs (and schools)? Have we accepted it as a fact that our bosses are evil and work is a painful chore? Finally, is it possible to break this line of thinking once and for all by rationally evaluating our feelings? In fact, could it be that once our approach changes, the reality will start matching the more positive expectations as our performance and mindset improves?
Another side of the story is that aversion towards work can go as far as for us to favor watching TV to cleaning our apartment, going to the gym or working on that business idea we had in mind. And this is regardless of the fact that in the end we may find the latter way more satisfying and pleasant. Consequently, there’s a chance that what we put in our vocabulary as work or a chore will automatically be associated with something unpleasant. After all, there are people who classify a workout as a hobby. Will they then feel as unhappy to do it as those who classify the very same activity as a chore?
Historically, one of the aversions to bosses arises out of power imbalance, and the experience of exploitation. The level of discontent/frustration with bosses depicted in recent media is tame compared with what we’ve seen in previous generations. Compare the lyrics of Gordon Lightfoots “Bossman” (1968) with recent depictions of the incompetent boss (Dilbert, The Office) or positive references to bosses (i.e. Beyonce)
Work has also, within the context of capitalist economics) been framed as disutility. So, yes, we have been conditioned to hate our jobs; our economy is actually set up around producing a certain level of discontent that we then attempt to deal with through patterns of consumption (television, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, drugs, gym memberships).
Rationally evaluating our feelings may be one aspect of a different approach to work. But the change in mindset has to be accompanied by objective change in workplace conditions, since there are still aspects of many (perhaps most) jobs that are degrading and unhealthy.
You should review W. Edwards Deming’s work. He writes extensively about Joy in work and cites it as a necessary precursor to high quality. See at https://deming.org