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Jobs Reimagined

May 11, 2016

A few weeks ago I came across a book by Barry Schwartz called Why We Work. It is a continued discussion from this Ted Talk. In the book, I saw this anecdote:


A hospital custodian, Luke, received complaints from a patient's father for not cleaning his son's room. Luke had just cleaned the room, but the father didn't see it as he was outside smoking. What did Luke do next? He cleaned the room again. He knew that father's son had been paralyzed for a long time and had been in a coma. He understood the frustration and did what he could to make that father's day easier and to care for him. 


Is Luke required to do that? No. Luke's job description includes mopping floors and cleaning toilet rooms, but nothing about caring for people or having the responsibility to care. 


Are these words too emotional for professional use? I don't think so. Working is one of the most significant and time-consuming components of living, and living is an emotional journey. What would happen if we add "caring for people in this hospital building" into Luke's job description?


"'Caring for people' would be too vague a term. It would be hard to establish and maintain professional boundaries. Employee training would become a chaos when it comes to this verse of the job description..."


All of these thoughts ran through my head, and then came this thought:

Aren't there already people who have this as part of their job description? How do they do it? Why not learn from them and figure out a way to make jobs more fulfilling through trial and error? 


"What kind of error are we talking about here? What would these trials cost? Are the costs necessary?..."


At that point, the debate in my head stopped, because that doubting voice was sounding very familiar. It sounded, for lack of better word, economical. I've learned that no matter how hard we try, I'm always going to be anything but that.


If we've managed to learn to be cost-efficient at work, then let's learn to add our emotions, our wellbeing and fulfillment to that equation. There's so much to gain from these hard-to-get variables that our pay check can't buy, and so much to lose that no job can mend. For the unconvinced, there's a tale to be shared tomorrow. 



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